'Goodbye Christopher Robin' examines the sadness behind the joy of Winnie-the-Pooh
Goodbye Christopher Robin
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Simon Curtis
Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Will Tilston
Genre: Biography, Drama
Rated: PG for thematic elements, some bullying, war images and brief language
Synopsis: A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), a successful playwright, returns from his service in World War I unable to handle the noise and pace of London. Moving to the countryside with his wife (Margot Robbie) and son, Milne attempts to write a novel about the war. When forced to take care of his son for a weekend while his nanny is away, Milne begins to explore an imaginary world with his son and a particular stuffed bear that goes by the name of Winnie.
Review: While the film’s “PG” rating and the connection to Winnie-the-Pooh suggest that “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is suitable for young children, it should be noted that the film isn’t a bright and sunny affair and is unlikely to entertain the younger spectrum of Pooh Bear’s fans.
The story of A.A. Milne (Domnhnall Gleeson) and his path to writing Winnie-the-Pooh is not easily traveled. Milne is haunted, “shell shocked” from his war experiences and returning to his life in London as a playwright and attending glamour parties with his wife proves to be too much for him to handle. So Milne takes is wife and young son and moves out into the countryside.
Milne’s wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie), who opposes the move, comes across very poorly here and throughout the film feels more like a sketch of a person than a fully realized portrait. It is entirely possible that Daphne was as shallow as portrayed, but even so, the character deserves more screen time. We’re given on scene in particular where she explains her disappointment of giving birth to a boy that suggests there is more depth there, but it is left unexplored.
The script is also problematic when it comes to its portrayal of Milne in the sense that we’re only shown the damaged man who returned from the war. We’re given too little sense of who he was before to completely understand the impact that combat has had on him.
We are offered a fairly good look at Billy (Will Tilston), the boy who is better known by Christopher Robin, as a young boy. We see the role he played in the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh and the impact of the book’s popularity had on his life. We don’t get a lot of Billy as a teen or young adult as the film speeds ahead in its final act to include a conversation between Milne and his son that effectively puts a bow on the story.
Despite its faults, “Goodbye Christopher Robin” does have some fantastic moments, particularly the scenes where Milne and Billy are laying the groundwork for the Hundred Acre Wood and its host of characters.
I’m also quite fond of the look of the film. The warm glow that radiates from the characters, a reference to a bygone era of filmmaking.
I recommend “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” just understand that it is an informative, but somewhat dour, experience. Not all happy stories come from happy inspiration.