Review / ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ (PG) ***

IT’S nearly a century since Daphne Milne (Margot Robbie) presented husband Alan (Domhnall Gleeson) with a son whom they called Christopher Robin (CR).

Today the books that Milne wrote about CR still float off booksellers’ shelves. Children adore their innocence and imagination. Their power to delight, their ability to occupy a corner of memory long after childhood has passed, are legend.

What is less legend are the consequences for CR (played by Will Tilston at age 8 and Alex Lawther at 18), hurled into fame long before he could cope with it. His father loved his only son perhaps to excess. His party-girl mother apparently gave higher priority to assuaging her husband’s memories of World War I battlefields than to caring for the emotional needs of a small boy.

The screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan for Simon Curtis’ film purporting to tell the events and influences that shaped CR’s early life draws heavily from the poems and the two books telling about his adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood with Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Roo, Kanga, Piglet and the rest. Those moments will draw responses from everybody who’s read Milne.

When the film ventures into grown-up territory, unexpected intentions derail its veracity about the Milne family. CR’s nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) tells him how the war had made everybody sad and the books gave hope again. In a very real sense, Olive more clearly than Alan or Daphne saw what was happening.

Milne wrote 52 poems never incorporated into the CR books (although CR is a character in several of them). The one titled “Politeness” reminds me in simple language that Milne did understand what fame was doing to a small boy. The film doesn’t acknowledge Alan’s awareness of fame’s effect that blighted the rest of CR’s life. On that ground, it is guilty of evading a sad verity.

At Dendy, Capitol 6, Palace Electric, Hoyts Belconnen and Limelight

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