Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin is an engaging insight

Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore; these marvellous make-believe characters have been a staple childhood read for generations, AA Milne's world of Christopher Robin a favourite of children and their parents the world over.

Their story; the real story along with the fictional ones, are now the subject of feature film Goodbye Christopher Robin.

From the filmmaker behind the excellent My Week with Marilyn, Simon Curtis, the first thing you need to know off the bat is that this is not a rose-tinted childhood fairy-tale movie for the family to enjoy on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

This is a darker and far more grown-up story of a man and his family struggling through the trauma of two world wars who finds solace in his own imagination, and that of his young son's. It's also the story of how fame and celebrity can infiltrate filial relationships, a theme with even more resonance today.

Domhnall Gleeson takes on Milne and does a fine job of it too. Mixing stiff upper lip with the more nuanced requirements of accessing real heart is a balancing act he manages convincingly.

Australian actress Margot Robbie is Mrs Milne, Daphne, a glamorous socialite who loves her husband, a man shell-shocked by World War I and endeavouring to assimilate back into his London life as a well-known playwright. She is, in fact, surprisingly unlikable, which must have been a real challenge for the terribly likable Robbie.

And while we have moments where we empathise with Daphne's plight, it's hard to fully understand the studied detachment she embraces when it comes to parenting.

Child actor Will Tilston plays the eight-year-old Christopher Robin, or Billy Moon, as his parents call him, and my-oh-my this kid has a dangerous pair of the most gorgeous camera-ready dimples! He does an endearing job of making us believe he really is the cutest little Christopher Robin we've ever set eyes on.

His performance becomes more central as the Milne family moves to the country, a final attempt for Alan to push through his writer's block and write the next best play. What he finds himself doing is getting to know his son instead, and in doing so not only opens himself up as a father but as a writer as well, as they both explore the fertile forest of their own backyard and their own child-like imaginations.

This is of course the era of the nanny and wet-nurse, of children being paraded before their parents before dinner, who must speak only when spoken too and by crikey don't even think about blubbing.

So it's here we welcome the wonderful Kelly Macdonald, the stand-out here as Christopher's Nanny Olive. She brings the requisite light and the dark with a real candour and calm, elevating proceedings considerably.

Goodbye Christopher Robin explores this complicated and oftentimes very sad story delicately and accessibly, and while it won't tick all the boxes of a classic biopic, it was engaging insight into the world of AA Milne; his life, and the life of his imaginary and not so imaginary friends.

Three stars.

* Goodbye Christopher Robin is in cinemas now.