To those brought up in the English-speaking world, there was no question that Winnie-the-Pooh was English, but I know two who were shocked to discover on arrival in Australia that he was not actually Hungarian.
The English are good at whimsy but not so good at showing emotion as shown in this story behind the creation of the bear with very little brain, his woodland friends and Christopher Robin.
It’s also a story about a family of damaged people and the impact of unexpected fame.
Known to his family and friends as Blue, Alan Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), a successful West End playwright, still suffers trauma from his time France during World War I.
Tired of the noise of London, he whisks his fashionable wife Daphne (Margot Robbie,) six year old son Christopher (Will Tilston), known as Billy Moon, and Nanny Olive (Kelly McDonald) to a house in the country on the edge of a wood.
Daphne, herself traumatised by her son’s birth, brings him the stuffed animals that become the inspiration for Pooh, Piglet, and the rest. Both parents were a product of their time when it just wasn’t done to show emotion.
When father and son are unexpectedly left alone for a few weeks, they start to bond, spending hours in the woods. Christopher asks Blue to write about his bear so when illustrator E.H. Shepard (Stephen Campbell Moore) visits, the two men start nutting out the stories and illustrations for the book which became Winne-the-Pooh, published in 1926.
Followed by The House at Pooh Corner, the books were very successful and Christopher is thrust into the spotlight at promotional events as both adults and children clamour to see him. For he doesn’t see himself as Christopher Robin at all but Billy Moon.
Fame has a negative effect on Christopher so when Blue realises what he has unleashed, he promises to stop writing. Scenes with Christopher at aged 18 (Alex Lawther) show what being the boy who inspired the stories has done to him.
Writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan were inspired by Christopher Milne’s autobiographies and Ann Thwaite’s biography of his father. Director Simon Curtis (Woman in Gold) shows us a Britain still reeling from the aftermath of war. It is both a tale of the perils of fame and a salute to the creator and illustrator of the beloved books and poems which have brought pleasure to generations of children worldwide.
Performances are excellent, beautifully shot and designed.
4/5 107mins Rated PG Released November 23
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly McDonald and introducing Will Tilston
Directed by Simon Curtis
Written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Simon Vaughan
Director of Photography Ben Smithard