Goodbye Christopher Robin

This might be a film about the origins of Winnie the Pooh, but it’s ultimately about the failures of parenthood. Goodbye Christopher Robin depicts the accidental creation of one of the greatest children’s book characters. Make-up caked performances by Gleeson (Ex Machina, The Revenant) and 2017 it girl Margot Robbie (I Tonya, Suicide Squad) don’t add much to this tale, that banks on sweetness but can’t quite corral the right level of emotion. You could look at this as true story about child neglect, and that’s heartbreaking on its own, or the psychological repercussions of early childhood fame. The first hour of the film is the most enchanting, when father and son are inventing these characters with personalities we all know. It’s the second half where the audience will feel guilty for enjoying a Pooh book or cartoon when they how this child suffered.

Following his service in The Great War, writer Alan Milne (Gleeson) suffered tremendous PTSD, which resulted in relocating his family from London into the countryside. His wife Daphne (Robbie), a socialite, only birthing their child to distract her husband from a mental breakdown finds Sussex woods uninviting. She spends her time in London, leaving their son Christopher (Tilston) with the live-in nanny Olive (Macdonald). Yet for two weeks when Christopher and his father were along together, they played in the woods with stuffed animals creating characters and scenarios that gave Alan the ideas he needed for a new book. Pooh became the gateway to happiness for a nation suffering the after effects of war. The cost of everyone else enjoying Christopher’s world meant sharing everything he loved, including his childhood.

An often misguided and mishandled story of sacrificing childhood for fame and art.

Director Simon Curtis softens the reality of the mother, and doesn’t quite allow the audience to hate these parents, although we want to. Eight-year-old Christopher Robin speaks in a way that doesn’t feel very realistic at times. Will Tilston is almost doll like with his dimples, bowl cut and dresses his mother leaves for him to wear. Robbie is in out and out the film, but her warmness as an actress was perhaps not the best choice to portray someone who is documented as being so cold. Macdonald is delightful as the nanny and the ignored voice of reason within a family that doesn’t understand the irreversible and devastating effect they are causing their child.

The countryside locations and vast wooded landscapes are as welcoming to the viewer as the stuffed animals are to Christopher. In the two weeks where Alan is actually a father, understanding where and how Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet were created are the highlights of the film. I don’t understand the need for the porcelain looking makeup on all the characters that make them look like heightened versions of reality. The transition from young Christopher to older, is quite jarring, and actor Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game) isn’t what anyone might imagine that chubby cheeked dimpled kid would evolve into. Yet it’s the final moments of the movie that tap into the forecast resentment we’ve suspected (and the Nanny predicted) all along that finally has a chance to produce waterworks.

Final Thought

An often misguided and mishandled story of sacrificing childhood for fame and art.


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