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'Goodbye Christopher Robin' Tells Tragic Tale Behind Winnie-The-Pooh (Exclusive Interview)

( [email protected] ) Nov 06, 2017 08:09 AM EST
"Goodbye Christopher Robin" explores the heartbreaking true-life basis for the character of Christopher Robin in English author A.A. Milne's iconic Winnie-the-Pooh series.
Will Tilston in “Goodbye Christopher Robin.” David Appleby/20th Century Fox

"Goodbye Christopher Robin" explores the heartbreaking true-life basis for the character of Christopher Robin in English author A.A. Milne's iconic Winnie-the-Pooh series.

The film, which hit theaters last month, documents how Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), a playwright and WWII veteran struggling with PTSD, wrote the best-selling books for his neglected 6-year-old son, Christopher Robin, known at home as Billy Moon.

The winsome tale of a boy and his beloved teddy bear captured the hearts of post WWII England, making the books an overnight sensation. Unfortunately, Milne and his self-absorbed wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie) soon allowed their son to become little more than a marketable commodity. From countless book signings, newspaper and telephone interviews to flashing lights, Billy was but robbed of the peaceful childhood he once knew.

As the film unfolds, Billy becomes increasingly embittered towards his parents, who don't realize the error of their ways until it's too late.

Screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce, who based "Goodbye Christopher Robin" on Ann Thwaite's award-winning biographies of Milne, told The Gospel Herald that in many ways, the film is a cautionary tale for parents.

"Sometimes, as a parent, we lose sight of the important things when it comes to our children," he said. "Those little moment may seem very passive and trivial, but in reality, they're the important things that are eternal. The serious things we do, the work we do, that will be fleeting, they will be forgotten. It's those magic moments we have with our children that they'll remember forever."

As a father of seven, Cottrell-Boyce said he decided to tackle the script of "Goodbye Christopher Robin" because of how honestly the story devles into the complicated relationship between parents and their children.

"The thing that really struck a chord was a story about a father and a son and the demands of the world and family and all of those things that every single parent has struggled with," he said. "It seemed like a very universal, contemporary story about family and finding time for the most important things in life."

Still, Cottrell-Boyce told GH he set out to tell Milne's story as candidly as possible -- without demonizing the author and his wife. There's no handbook for parenting, he pointed out.

"As you get older, you realize that everyone is a little bit crazy, and even in their craziness, they really do love their children," he said. "I fear I was far from a perfect parent, but I really did want to be, even though I did loads of the wrong things."

"You've got to be forgiving about that," he continued. "Even the parents that appear to be neglectful, in their head they're doing it because they want to prod their children in the right direction."

Despite Milne's flawed approach to his books, Winni-the-Pooh, Eyore and Piglet continue to captivate audiences today -- with good reason, said Cottrell-Boyce, who is himself behind a slew of best-selling children's books.

"They're brilliant, they're beautifully written and illustrated," he said. "But I think there's something special about Winnie-the-Pooh, because you read it in the nursery when your child is very young, and there's something very intimate about that. Pooh almost puts a magic spell on both parents and children."

"A really good story is a story that makes you think about looking at the world at the different way," he added. "These books do just that."

"Goodbye Christopher Robin" is rated PG. The film is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Tags : Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Goodbye Christopher Robin, Winnie-The-Pooh, A. A. Milne, Margot Robbie