THE COLOUR OF HONEY

Domh­nall Glee­son’s take on Winnie the Pooh’s cre­ator is not child’s play

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - WORDS IAN FREER

23 SEPTEM­BER 2016 is a land­mark day on Good­bye Christo­pher Robin, a tightly fo­cused biopic of Winnie the Pooh cre­ator A.A. Milne.

Em­pire is in the Ash­down For­est in East Sus­sex on the ac­tual bridge where Pooh­sticks, the game played by Pooh and friends, was in­vented (a stone not­ing the fact has been dis­creetly cov­ered up). Tourists from Canada, Scot­land and Ja­pan wait to pass as Domh­nall Glee­son as A(lan) A(lexan­der) Milne and nine-year-old Will Til­ston as his son Christo­pher Robin drop sticks, then leg it to the other side of the bridge to see whose emerges first. A props man stands in the wa­ter to recycle sticks.

“This is the point in the film where Alan and Christo­pher Robin are get­ting to know one another,” says Glee­son, re­tain­ing a pitch-per­fect up­per-class English ac­cent. “Alan has been on a tough jour­ney and, all of a sud­den, the in­no­cence of the boy and child­hood is just rub­bing off on him. It’s giv­ing him a new lease of life.” This “tough jour­ney” is Good­bye Christo­pher

Robin’s dra­matic hook. As writ­ten by Frank Cot­trell-boyce, the cre­ation of Pooh, Piglet and co is in­formed by Milne’s strug­gles with post-world War I demons, his re­la­tion­ship with wife Daphne (Mar­got Rob­bie) and the ten­sions caused when Christo­pher Robin be­comes the pro­to­type child celebrity. “It’s not a sickly sweet film,” says di­rec­tor Si­mon Cur­tis. “There’s pain and dis­tress as well.”

De­spite be­ing near uni­ver­sally pop­u­lar, Glee­son didn’t grow up on Pooh (so to speak), which he thinks is an ad­van­tage. “Hav­ing a bit of a cold eye is good be­cause you warm up to the man ev­ery day,” he says. “We shouldn’t have to know about Winnie the Pooh for it to nec­es­sar­ily mean some­thing. For me it’s about a fa­ther and a son, and a man strug­gling with PTSD.”

With that, the ac­tor re­turns to his sticks. And for a glo­ri­ous mo­ment, the line be­tween in­no­cent child­hood and tor­mented adult­hood is blurred.

Clock­wise from

above: Will Til­ston as Christo­pher Robin, clutch­ing the soon-tobe leg­endary bear; Kelly Mac­don­ald plays nanny Olive; Di­rec­tor Si­mon Cur­tis (right) joins Til­ston and Domh­nall Glee­son (as A.A. Milne) on the Pooh­sticks bridge in the Ash­down For­est; Mar­got Rob­bie com­pletes the fam­ily as Milne’s wife, Daphne.

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