- Apr 19, 2000
- Salinas, CA
- Real Name
Genre: Family, History, Drama
Director: Simon Curtis
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Will Tilston, Alex Lawther, Nico Mirallegro, Stephen Campbell Moore, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Geraldine Somerville, Richard McCabe, Shaun Dingwall, Vicki Pepperdine, Simon Williams, Bentley Kalu, Mossie Smith, Stanley Hamblin, Dexter Hyman, Sonny Hyman, Sam Barnes, Allegra Marland, Mark Tandy, Richard Dixon, Ann Thwaite, Louise Harrison, Nicholas Richardson, Kevin Millington, Rolan Bell, Mark McKerracher, Amber Batty, Grace Curtis, Matilda Curtis, Lance C. Fuller, Simon Connolly, Richard Clifford, Cameron Lane, Phoebe Lyons, Harper Gray, Nick Blakeley, Victoria Bavister, Robert Portal, Tommy Rodger, Vincent Finch, Jim Cartwright, Beatrice Stein, Sarah Jayne Butler
Runtime: 107Plot: The behind the scenes story of the life of A.A. Milne and the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories inspired by his son Christopher Robin.
Prior to 1926, the year of Now We Are Six's publication, Alan Alexander Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) was a celebrated satirist, WWI veteran, and playwright of shows like Mr. Pim Goes To Town. After marrying Daphne de Sélincourt (Margot Robbie), he became the proud father of a boy named Christopher Robin Milne (Stanley Hamblin as a newborn, then Dexter and Sonny Hyman at age 3, then Will Tilston at age 8, then Alex Lawton at age 18). After seeing the horrors of war first hand drives him to become a pacifist, he vows to create a better world for his son by advocating banning war just as slavery was banned a century ago. While witty words and turns of phrase come easily to him, he struggles at fatherhood at first until he creates a fantasy world around Billy Moon's (as his parents and Nanny Noo [Phoebe Waller-Bridge] call him) stuffed animals. His favorite, of course, was a bear, whose name went from Edwin Bear to Winnie to Winnie-the-Pooh after making such noise at a swan. When Milne took his stories and published them, Christopher Robin himself became a character in them, simply called that. He and Winnie-the-Pooh and became a worldwide phenomenon, comparable to the popularity of the Harry Potter books in more recent years. Just as A.A. Milne became known as "the author of Winnie-the-Pooh," his son also began to make public appearances with the bear. But while there is no Harry Potter in real life, the very real Christopher Robin soon got tired of being expected to act as he did in the books in public, and the public appearances stopped. But he still resented his father for taking something that happened between the two of us and making it public. His education also suffered as other boys in school tried to bully any sense of gentleness and sensitivity out of him. When WWII broke out, he enlisted, his father allowed him to join, but this eventually threatened their ability to ever have any sense of reconciliation between them.
The dramatization of real events in motion pictures is always a tricky business in deciding what to keep and what to leave out. Do it wrong and you become a joke at best or a pariah at worst among those interested in the subject matter. Wisely, director Simon Curtis and screenwriters Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan spent most of their time focusing on the father-son relationship and how making his son into a literary character affected the same relationship that inspired it. The working relationship between Milne and Ernest Shepard (Stephen Campbell Moore), who illustrated the books, is secondary, as are the actual battles in the wars both father and son shot. More time is spent on the relationship between Billy Moon and the nanny, and his mother's oft-changing role in his life (and suggests it was she who inspired Kanga and Roo). And despite some of its liberties with history — the film neglects to mention Milne was in the Home Guard during WWII — it's the execution of the piece that makes it work. Every detail in David Roger's production design is carefully, meticulously considered, and Ben Smithard's artfully composed cinematography complements it beautifully. But to make a film like this work requires a cast that can not just look the part but act it, too, and there the film succeeds without reservation. Domhnall Gleeson succeeds at being both witty and debonair as a writer and raconteur and warm and empathetic as a father, and Will Tilston brings the real life Christopher Robin to life believably. Margot Robbie is good at conveying both Daphne's (her real name was Dorothy) joy for life and her post-mortem depression, where she is genuinely heartbreaking.**
The world of the Hundred Acre Wood is just dismissed as simple-minded kiddie fare by some (as Dorothy Parker's infamous "tonstant weader fwowed up" quote indicates), yet within it there is genuine conflict and a fear of loss. But the reality that nature can sometimes be dangerous shines through. Even Walt Disney couldn't ignore it. Consider the original films that comprise The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh had Piglet losing his house to a flood, Pooh getting stung by bees after trying to take their honey, and Rabbit trying to "un-bounce" tigger, essentially forcing himself to be something he is not, just as many boys and men are both then and now in various ways, some of them as cruel and brutal as those Christopher Robin would face at school. It reflects both one of the worst aspects of being famous at a young age—having to deal with peers who know who you are because of being the inspiration for a fictional character—and the pain of being teased for one's mannerisms and for having a name or (a middle name in this case) that is unisex.*** Even Winnie-the-Pooh's name becomes a matter of debate for that reason.**** But that is just one of many points in the complex relationship between the Milne family, one the film captures eloquently while still reminding us just what we loved about Pooh and company in the first place.
I can't wait for the sequel: Hello Lawsuit. I'll be waiting awhile because Disney also has a legal claim on the original Ernest Shepard designs, which they sell as "Classic Pooh" merchandise, so there aren't many of those in the movie.
*Which also happened to be the year Walt died.
**Making it all the more ironic the 1980s TV cartoons made Christopher Robin's mother a character on the show after Welcome to Pooh Corner dispensed of him entirely. A pre-Disney American TV version with Shirley Temple and the Bil Baird Puppets did the same as the former in 1960.
***See also: Bobby Driscoll in Song of the South
****See also: Johnny Cash and A Boy Named Sue