Traumatic birth of a children’s classic
CELEBRITY parents monetising their cherubic children predated selfies, social media and smart phones by many years.
In this handsome drama, battle-scarred author AA Milne and his wife Daphne treat their young son as a sales tool in the mid-1920s to promote the literary adventures of Winnie-The-Pooh.
A tender exchange by telephone between father and son is broadcast live on the radio without the boy’s knowledge, a trip to the zoo turns into a calculated photo opportunity with a brown bear, and playtime is curtailed to make way for a busy schedule of interviews and meet ‘n’ greets.
The sacrifice of one little boy’s childhood innocence for the happiness and healing of a shell-shocked Britain, which has been devastated by the Great War, is at the wounded heart of Simon Curtis’ picture.
The script, co-written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan, gradually exposes the anguish and resentment that festered beneath the Hundred Acre Wood.
Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) returns to London from the trenches, where he witnessed hundreds of countrymen cut down in their prime.
“Find something to be happy about and stick to that,” glibly suggests his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), who cannot understand her husband’s inner turmoil.
Angered by the senseless loss of life, Milne abandons the capital for a quaint house in Ashdown Forest, transplanting Daphne, their son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston) and nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) to the verdant idyll.
A walk through the sun-dappled landscape fertilises Milne’s imagination and he contemplates a book that magically brings to life his son’s menagerie of stuffed toys.
Good friend Ernest Shepard (Stephen Campbell Moore) illustrates these enchanting escapades, which take the Milne clan around the world including glamorous New York.
Goodbye Christopher Robin is a classy but emotionally chilly picture, reflected in Gleeson’s restrained performance, which internalises Milne’s post-traumatic stress and shuts out his family as well as us.
Robbie relishes her flashier if underwritten character, while Macdonald provides warmth as the nanny who recognises the damage being done to her young charge.
Sadly, Milne and his wife don’t heed her sage counsel until it is too late.
Will Tilston as Christopher Robin Milne and Domhnall Gleeson as Alan Milne