Who knew about the darkness lurking behind the childhood favourite Winnie The Pooh? I had no idea Christopher Robin was a real little boy, and was stunned by this film that brilliantly explores the origins of the characters in the 100 Acre Wood.
Margot Robbie plays Pooh creator A.A. Milne‘s wife Daphne with ice cool stealth as her husband, played by Domhnall Gleeson, grapples with his experiences on the Western Front of WW1.
Seemingly unfit or uninterested in parenting their young son, or perhaps just a reflection of the times, Christopher Robin spends most of his time with his Nanny Olive, or Nou, played by Kelly MacDonald who really owns the film together with a standout performance by Will Tilston who plays the 8 year old version of the titular role.
Longing to spend time with his emotionally distant father Alan, a successful playwright who is suffering from PTSD, Christopher, or Billie Moon as he is called by his family, is a gentle boy, obsessed with animals and prone to wearing smocks, a hangover from the fact that his mother was hoping for a daughter.
When Father and son do spend some time together, they co-create the world of Pooh and friends, rapidly becoming a global publishing sensation in the aftermath of the First World War, as the general public are ravenous for some happiness in their damaged lives.
With his two parents dealing with their own issues, the real Christopher Robin begins to become overshadowed by the print version of himself, and he becomes a commodity, losing some of the innocence that made the Pooh universe possible in the first place.
This is a disturbing film that explores the idea of exploiting loved ones in the name of fame and business, a practice that is such a commonplace part of the Reality TV obsessed world we live in nowadays, and it is truly horrid to see young Billie Moon struggle with the intrusion into his childhood as he is gawked at in public and forced to share his private life with the world at large.
The story is compelling, the performances excellent, beautifully shot by Ben Smithard who has been busy behind the camera having also shot the upcoming The Man Who Invented Christmas, (and shot Belle and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Director Simon Curtis does a splendid job of capturing the spirit of the times, and bringing t o life a story based on facts, to make a very moving film.
I was expecting a flood of tears, but they never eventuated. I did find my eyes moisten as the film builds to a climax as Christopher Robin, now a young adult, sets off to WW2 in search of himself, and to attempt to escape the omnipresent shadow of his childhood that looms over his life.
This really is an incredible story and it is expertly told.
4 Stars. “A Great Film That May Break Your Heart”