There is one scene that sums up Simon Curtis’ film on the life of author A.A. Milne and the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories inspired by his son C.R. Milne. It is the one where father, A.A. fondly called Blue (Domhnall Gleeson) serves his son fondly called Billie (Will Tilston) porridge he had made as the nanny has the day off. Billie lifts his spoon to reveal a real lumpy porridge. That is exactly the way director Simon Curtis (MY WEEK WITH MARILYN) has served his film and it is going to go down lumpy down the audience’s throats.
The film, however, does open impressively with shots (cinematography by Ben Smithard) of the beautiful English woods with sunlight beaming down the trees and spreading among the flowers, pretty much like the pictures of a Winnie the Pooh children’s book. Blue receives a letter from the postman, the wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie) looking on, obvious that the letter brings bad news of the death of their son who has gone off to fight in the War.
The film tells the story of Blue’s creation of Winnie the Pooh and how the fame aversely affected the family especially the impressionable child Billie. Blue goes to war and comes back with shell shock. His evil wife Dafne, insists he keeps writing and he eventually lies it and takes the whole family to live in the country. Evil wife gets upset ,leaves and threatens never to return unless the husband writes again. Father and son bond in the woods and father creates Winnie the Pooh (the name Winnie coming from the rescued bear from Winnipeg, Canada). The boy, Billie also appears in the Pooh books and known as Christopher Robin. Fame and publicity prevents the boy from playing and having a normal childhood. Confrontation results between husband and son (now played by Alex Lawther). Amidst all this is the cheerful nanny, Olive (the wonderful Kelly Macdonald) who can never do any wrong. She gets to tell the parents off and to calls the evil mother a horse in her face.
As the film is not based on a book, one wonders where all the material for the story comes from. One can surmise that a lot has been imagined by the scriptwriters Frank Cottrell-Boyce Simon Vaughan. The film turns into sentimental mush at the end with the news of the son’s death. Dad, mum and Olive are grieving and more lumpy mush again when it turns out when Billie shows up. The father son reunion is neither credible as well.
Robbie and Gleeson sport silly English accents. At least Macdonald, the only one worth watching in this silly enterprise gets to keep her Scots accent.
The film has one believe that Winnie the Pooh did wonders for world peace just because one soldier fighting in the trenches hummed a Pooh tune.
The film ends with old photographs of the real characters in the film followed yes, by old photos of the real toys of the bear tiger, piglet and all. As if the film is not sentimental enough.
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