- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A. A. Milne returned to England from the First World War a broken man. He suffered nightmares and depression, and even his family couldn’t seem to reach him as he seemed to spiral deeper into what would one day be labeled “post-traumatic stress disorder.”

But in Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, the wounded man saw a way back to innocence. Young Christopher’s playing with his toys as father and son walked through the woods of their Sussex home inspired Milne to start writing stories of his son and his stuffed animals, whose names would soon become known to millions worldwide.

Winnie the Pooh. Piglet. Eeyore. Roo. Tigger.

And Christopher Robin himself, their human companion.

“I loved the idea that behind one of the best known books of all times there was this totally unknown story,” said Simon Curtis, director of the new film “Goodbye, Christopher Robin.” “[Audiences] didn’t know that Milne himself was traumatized by the war and that the stories came out of his recovery from that, in a sense.”

“Goodbye, Christopher Robin,” filmed in many of the actual locations where Milne once wrote his books, stars Domhnall Gleeson. Margot Robbie portrays Milne’s wife, Daphne, with young actors Will Tilston and Alex Lawther portraying the real-life Christopher Robin at various points during his youth.

“Domhnall is remarkable. He’s supertalented and ferociously intelligent,” Mr. Curtis said of the Irish actor known for his work in “Star Wars” and “Ex Machina.”

Mr. Curtis said that unlike the quiet, introverted writer he portrays in the film, Mr. Gleeson himself is especially outgoing and gregarious.

“He had to bottle all of that up, but what I love about that bottled-up exterior is when he is happy, that smile comes on his face, and it’s worth its weight in gold,” Mr. Curtis said of Mr. Gleeson.

Furthermore, not only was Milne in need of healing, but so was much of Europe — and the world — in the wake of what was up to that time the most costly war in human history.

“I think one of the reasons Winnie the Pooh succeeded in the 1920s is that it was a way for readers to recapture the innocence of the years before the trauma of the war,” Mr. Curtis said. “I think now we’re [again] living in troubled times, and I hope this film is comforting in a similar way.”

“Goodbye, Christopher Robin” was shot on a tight schedule and slim budget, requiring both Mr. Gleeson and Miss Robbie, who is Australian, to more or less arrive on set with English accents at the ready for their characters.

However, Mr. Curtis gave actress Kelly Macdonald, who portrays the Milnes’ nanny, a bit of a break.

“Obviously Domhnall and Margot were ‘traveling’ to their character, so it seemed perverse to have someone else” changing their natural timbres as well, Mr. Curtis said.

Ergo, he allowed that Miss Macdonald’s character, Olive, would be Scottish, just like the actress.

“We thought, ‘Why couldn’t she be Scottish?’ Mr. Curtis said.

Mr. Curtis, whose own parents read him Milne’s books when he was a lad, said what he aims to impart in “Goodbye, Christopher Robin” is a sense of cherishing your loved ones while they are here — because one day they might not be.

“It’s a film about Winnie the Pooh but is actually about so much more,” Mr. Curtis said, which includes the effects of war and how celebrity changes individuals and families.

“Its so important to cherish your family while you’ve got them because they’re not going to be around forever,” he said.

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