Director Simon Curtis on 'Goodbye, Christopher Robin' (INTERVIEW)

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Simon Curtis’s Goodbye, Christopher Robin is a new biopic about Alan Alexander “A. A.” Milne (1882-1956). The British author, poet and playwright is best-known for a series of children’s books written for his son, Christopher Robin. Milne’s characters were all inspired by stuffed animals that belonged to Christopher, including what may be the most famous teddy bear in the world, Winnie-the-Pooh. The movie is comprised of several narrative threads, including the father-son relationship, and the little-known story of the writer’s World War I service, that led to his struggle with the malady then known as “shell shock.” 

The film’s title, Goodbye, Christopher Robin, could be the lament of parents for their child who has matured and fled the nest, as the film begins when Christopher is an adult. It may also express Milne’s regret that the son, whose sobriquet at home was “Billy Moon,” lost much of his childhood as a result of his literary success. After the brief opening scene, the film moves to the backstory of Milne as a soldier returned from the war. “At the end of the First World War, there were so many people who didn’t come back,” Simon Curtis says, in a telephone conversation from Los Angeles, “that the people who did come back were considered the lucky ones. Of course, this was long before PTSD was recognized or understood.” 

Milne, portrayed by Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson, is first seen at a party. He and his future illustrator on the Winnie-the-Pooh books, Ernest H. Shepard (relative newcomer, Stephen Campbell Moore), learn that they were both in the Somme Offensive, in France, the worst battle of “the war to end all wars” in which the British lost 420,000 men in six months. The pop of a champagne cork startles Milne. “There is that beautiful moment when the two veterans speak,” Curtis says, “and Ernest realizes that Milne has terrible memories of the war.” The artist and the author were contributors to the weekly magazine Punch, and first collaborated on Milne’s 1924 poetry collection, When We Were Very Young, that featured Mr. Edward Bear, later to become Winnie-the-Pooh. 


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