This post was written by Colin Free on October 10, 2017
This examination of the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories by AA (Alan) Milne and the impact it has on the writer’s family is a diverting story that never quite takes off but makes for a pleasant viewing experience nevertheless, despite some flaws.
Traumatised by his experiences in the first world war, Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) finds he cannot bring himself to continue writing the comedic plays he was famous for. He decides to move with his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) and son, Christopher Robin (Will Tilston) to Ashdown Forest in Sussex, where he will write a serious anti-war book. His attempts prove unsuccessful, but when he unexpectedly gets to spend some time alone with his son, he starts to formulate the ideas that will eventually turn into the much-loved stories.
I have seen some negative reviews of Gleeson’s performance, calling it stiff. I think those miss the point. Englishmen of that era were commonly like that, and his relationship with his family seemed real to me. I believe that the problem performances were from Robbie and Tilston.
It is not entirely Robbie’s fault, despite her Australian accent peeking through every now and again, but Daphne seems such an unlikeable and selfish character, it is hard to understand why Milne married her. Tilston is meant to be cute, but I found him to be cloying, brattish and annoying. Having said that, I still felt some sympathy for him, as he struggled from the fame foisted on him after the books were published.
The best performance comes from Kelly MacDonald as the sensible and grounded Olive who is Christopher’s nanny. Also, the best scenes of the film and the most convincing relationship in it were shared by Gleeson and Stephen Campbell Moore as his illustrator, Ernest (who had similar experiences in the war and is the only one who really understands Alan’s issues). There is a real warmth and naturalness between the two of them.
With the PTSD issues and the pressures involved in unexpected fame, the film has a lot more depth than I expected and, therefore, exceeded my expectations. It does make one huge mis-step near the end, when it makes you think that a major character has died. It is a moment, that seemed to be included to get the audience in tears in rather a calculating way. That aside, this is an involving and moving story.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10