Trau­matic birth of a chil­dren’s clas­sic

Cynon Valley - - SCREENSHOTS -

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

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