Who doesn’t adore Winnie the Pooh? The mere utterance of the teddybear’s name, along with Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore, is enough to transport so many people of a certain age to a happier world of uncomplicated intimacies and honey-soaked innocence. The history behind Pooh is considerably more layered, however. AA Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), a successful West End playwright, returned from the carnage of WWI suffering severe shellshock and, like countless others of his generation, he struggled to resume his pre-war lifestyle. Blocked as a writer and tormented by the bloody futility of the trenches, he moved from London to the Sussex countryside with his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), who would be unwilling to forego the glitter of ‘society’, and young son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston). Olive (Kelly Macdonald) joined the family as the nanny and was to develop an inter-dependent relationship with the little boy that was more dear to him even than that which he shared with his parents. On one of their regular walks in the woods, Milne was inspired by Christopher Robin (or ‘Billy Moon’, as he called him) to write the Pooh stories, and they were an immediate publishing triumph. In a gentle way, the film deals with big issues, including the terrible psychological scars inflicted by the ‘war to end all wars’, the catharsis of creativity and the crushing burden that fame and celebrity can inflict on those whose hordes of fans might love them to death. Gleeson’s Milne is a remote, insular character, detached from much that is happening around him; Macdonald is, as always, sympathetic and warm hearted, while, in a truly remarkable performance, the deeply dimpled Tilston brings to life the overlooked child. The illustrator Ernest Shepherd (Stephen Campbell Moore) is involved for a time, but not given the kudos that he deserves – surely his drawings had as much to do with Pooh’s phenomenal and lasting success as Milne’s writing? Otherwise, this is a treasure.
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