Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin moving tale of how Pooh bear was salve to war torn nation

Domhnall Gleeson as Alan Milne and Will Tilston as Christopher Robin Milne in Goodbye Christopher Ro

Domhnall Gleeson as Alan Milne and Will Tilston as Christopher Robin Milne in Goodbye Christopher Robin. Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures/David Appleby - Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures/David Appleby

In this handsomely crafted drama about battle-scarred author A A Milne who comes up with the adventures of a hunny-loving bear called Winnie-The-Pooh for his son and as an attempt to restore the innocence the war had robbed the world of.

Margot Robbie as Daphne Milne, Domhnall Gleeson as Alan Milne and Will Tilston as Christopher Robin

Margot Robbie as Daphne Milne, Domhnall Gleeson as Alan Milne and Will Tilston as Christopher Robin Milne in Goodbye Christopher Robin. Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures/David Appleby - Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures/David Appleby

Goodbye Christopher Robin (PG)

****

Domhnall Gleeson is a remarkable actor with incredible range. In every role he seems to scrub up entirely fresh, create something clear and distinct and with no overlap from previous performances: exactly what actors are supposed to do, but almost never do.

In this intensely moving tale of how a battle fatigued A.A. Milne returned from the First World War to create Winnie the Pooh, he gives us a Milne who is the empty shell of an Ian Carmichael character; a brooding haunted silly ass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akmQKbxBzXA

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He's Christoper Walken in P.G Wodehouse's The Deer Hunter.

This film shows how the stiff upper lip got us through two world wars, but not unscathed. Milne and his wife (Margot Robbie) are shallow, thoughtless types, built to fritter away their lives writing West End comedies and attending glitzy cocktail dos.

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War has presented them with a black dog which they have no idea how to handle; it is heartbreaking watching them struggle to deal with the unwanted depth they have been handed.

As soon as baby Christopher Robin appears he is handed over to the nanny (Kelly MacDonald). Only when Milne is forced to spend some time with his five-year-old son (Will Tilston) does he come up with the stories that will delight the world, based on their experiences together.

Domhnall Gleeson as Alan Milne and Will Tilston as Christopher Robin Milne in Goodbye Christopher Ro

Domhnall Gleeson as Alan Milne and Will Tilston as Christopher Robin Milne in Goodbye Christopher Robin. Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures/David Appleby - Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures/David Appleby

Pooh was his attempt to restore the innocence the war had robbed the world of, but its worldwide success would have a bitter sting.

The film itself is like a picture perfect costume drama which has been afflicted with an unexpected weight. These kinds of films are usually falling over themselves to forgive and forget their characters' flaws but GCR never quite lets them off the hook.

It's a lovely production, with a top notch script and performances and far more resonance than these affairs usually carry. You could argue that Gleeson and Robbie's performances are mannered, but that's entirely the point.

And Tilston as the young Christopher Robin is as adorable a Christopher Robin as you could ever want. Like the best child actors he has a guilelessness that gets straight to the point.

Films about writers and writing process are invariably awful. This is special, in a way I haven't experienced since a film from the late 80s called Dreamchild (horrible title) in which Dennis Potter and Muppet creator Jim Henson combined to explore the creation of Alice in Wonderland. That never got the recognition it deserved, but is well worth hunting out.

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