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|Goodbye Christopher Robin|
dir Simon Curtis
prd Steve Christian, Damian Jones
scr Frank Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan
with Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Alex Lawther, Will Tilston, Stephen Campbell Moore, Shaun Dingwall, Geraldine Somerville, Richard McCabe, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Nico Mirallegro, Vicki Pepperdine
release UK 29.Sep.17, US 13.Oct.17
17/UK Fox 1h47
Woodland friends: Gleeson and Tilston
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
While this film has the usual lush design work of a British period biopic, the plot is surprisingly dark and introspective, focussing on some far deeper themes than expected for a movie about the man who created Winnie the Pooh. It's a powerfully involving drama, simply because it gets so deeply under the skin of the central characters, revealing them as flawed people who are easy to identify with despite their social privilege.
Traumatised after serving in the Great War, AA Milne (Gleeson) returns home to his wife Daphne (Robbie) determined to stop writing comical plays and movies. As Alan struggles to find his voice, Daphne gives birth to their son Christopher Robin (Wilston then Lawther), nicknamed Billy, and they move out to the Sussex countryside. Raised largely by his nanny Olive (Macdonald), the young Billy inspires his father to write stories based on his toys and the nearby woodlands. But the subsequent media circus causes new strains on the family.
The story is framed in 1941, as Alan and Daphne receive word about Billy, who is fighting on the front. Of course, this sparks Alan's wartime memories, something he never wanted his son to experience. And it sends him on a trip through Billy's childhood. Curtis handles the flashback structure cleverly, smoothly transitioning between periods without losing the audience. It helps that the make-up artists do a great job ageing the actors.
Gleeson brings earthy fragility to the thoroughly engaging Alan. He lives in a frightfully posh world in which expressing emotion is forbidden, but the camera catches his quiet flickers of sensitivity. Robbie has perhaps the least layered role as a self-involved socialite who hides her feelings from everyone, although she skilfully lets them leak out in private. Macdonald is superb as the much more expressive Olive. And while Tilston's adorable dimples are distracting, both he and Lawther bring surprising depth to Billy.
Director Curtis uses all of the first-rate production design at his disposal, and catches a powerful slant on upper crust British society without losing the humanity of the characters. He also thankfully avoids sentimentality, finding something thoughtfully provocative in this story about people who unleashed the viral social media of their time, and reacted in ways that are eerily resonant almost a century later. And alongside all of that, this is also a vividly unsanitised account of the creation of the best-loved children's book of all time.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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