Film re­view

TV3’s movie ex­pert Kate Rodger dis­cov­ers the true story of the Christo­pher Robin books and picks three old favourites to watch over the Christ­mas break.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - ON SCREEN - Di­rected by Si­mon Cur­tis. Star­ring Domh­nall Glee­son and Mar­got Rob­bie

Winnie-the-Pooh, Tig­ger, Piglet, Eey­ore… th­ese mar­vel­lous make-be­lieve char­ac­ters have been a sta­ple child­hood read for gen­er­a­tions, A.A. Milne’s world of Christo­pher Robin a favourite of chil­dren and their par­ents the world over. The real story be­hind the char­ac­ters is now the sub­ject of a film, Good­bye Christo­pher Robin.

The first thing you need to know is that this is not a rose-tinted child­hood fairy­tale movie for the fam­ily to en­joy on a rainy Sun­day af­ter­noon. This is a darker, far more grown-up story of a man and his fam­ily strug­gling through the trauma of war – a man who finds so­lace in his own imag­i­na­tion, and that of his young son. It’s also the story of how fame and celebrity can in­fil­trate fil­ial re­la­tion­ships, a theme with res­o­nance to­day.

Domh­nall Glee­son (The Force Awak­ens/About Time) takes on Milne and does a fine job of it. Mix­ing stiff up­per lip with the more nu­anced re­quire­ments of ac­cess­ing real heart is a balanc­ing act he man­ages con­vinc­ingly.

Australian ac­tress Mar­got Rob­bie (The Wolf of Wall Street/ Fo­cus) is Mrs Milne, Daphne, a glam­orous so­cialite who loves her hus­band, a man shell­shocked by the First World War and en­deav­our­ing to as­sim­i­late back into his Lon­don life as a well-known play­wright. She is, in fact, sur­pris­ingly un­like­able, which must have been a real chal­lenge for the ter­ri­bly like­able Rob­bie. And while we have mo­ments where we em­pathise with Daphne’s plight, it’s hard to fully un­der­stand the stud­ied de­tach­ment she em­braces when it comes to par­ent­ing.

Child ac­tor Will Til­ston plays the eight-yearold Christo­pher Robin, or Billy Moon, as his par­ents call him and, my-oh-my, this kid has a dangerous pair of the most gorgeous, cam­er­aready dim­ples! He does an en­dear­ing job of mak­ing us be­lieve he re­ally is the cutest lit­tle Christo­pher Robin we’ve ever seen.

His per­for­mance be­comes more cen­tral as the Milne fam­ily moves to the coun­try, a fi­nal at­tempt for Alan to push through his writer’s block and pen the next best play. In­stead, he finds him­self get­ting to know his son, and in do­ing so he not only opens him­self up as a fa­ther but as a writer too, as they ex­plore the fer­tile for­est of their own back­yard and child-like imag­i­na­tions.

This is, of course, the era of the nanny and wet-nurse, of chil­dren be­ing pa­raded be­fore their par­ents be­fore dinner, speak­ing only when spo­ken to and, by crikey, don’t even think about blub­bing. So it’s here we wel­come the won­der­ful Kelly Macdon­ald (Trainspot­ting/No Coun­try for Old Men) – the stand-out as Christo­pher’s nanny, Olive. She brings the req­ui­site light with a real can­dour and calm, el­e­vat­ing pro­ceed­ings con­sid­er­ably.

Good­bye Christo­pher Robin ex­plores this com­pli­cated and of­ten­times very sad story del­i­cately and ac­ces­si­bly, and while it won’t tick all the boxes of a clas­sic biopic, it is an en­gag­ing in­sight into the world of A.A. Milne – his life, and the life of his imag­i­nary and not so imag­i­nary friends.

This is not a rose-tinted child­hood fairy­tale.

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