A rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children's author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin, whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie the Pooh. Along with his mother Daphne (Margot Robbie), and his nanny Olive, Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War. But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family? Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories captivated me as a child and they are still wonderful stories through young adult eyes. The stories epitomise childhood innocence, the atmosphere is enough to enchant everybody regardless of gender and age and the characters are some of the most charming in children's literature (Disney's treatment of them as some of their most famous ever creations is every bit as special).
Hearing that there was a biographical drama based on the man, his life and his family, the desire to see 'Goodbye Christopher Robin' was overwhelming. Was not disappointed at all after seeing it today, it was a lovely biographical drama even with Milne's life not being what one would expect reading the stories or being familiar with the timeless characters, his dark and troubled personal life being the anti-thesis of the innocent and charming world created in his Winnie the Pooh stories. That was actually what was so fascinating about 'Goodbye Christopher Robin'.
'Goodbye Christopher Robin' in biographical terms fascinates and illuminates. But the film fares even better judging it as a film on its own merits, on this front it is a lovely very good film that is neither the potentially cutesy cookie-cutter film one might think it would be reading the title or the overly dark and joyless one that one would fear upon looking up what the film is about. It's more layered than either.
The film looks great for starters. The beautiful cinematography, with its vibrant hues, really brings the film to life in a way that reminds one of how a story book would. The settings and costumes are both sumptuous and vivid, making the viewer feel like they've been transported in time to that period and being part of it. Carter Burwell's string-heavy score is luscious and stirring in its elegance. Both combined creates a really nostalgic quality that could have been at odds at the dark portrayal of Milne's and his family's personal life but it's an effective contrast.
When it comes to the writing, 'Goodbye Christopher Robin' is very intelligently and thoughtfully written and, considering that it has a subject matter where it is so easy to go heavy-handed and be too much of one tone, has evidence of sensitivity and nuance with touches of bitter irony in how such a happy childhood depicted in the stories was very much a miserable one in real life. The nods and references to Milne's work are clever and affectionate, enough to make one's eyes well up with aching nostalgia. The story is cohesive and never feels like it's jumping around too much or lacking momentum, it also has a lot of heart and affecting poignancy in how Christopher tries to get his father to loosen up and the interaction with his nanny (along with Christopher the warmest and most sympathetic character in 'Goodbye Christopher Robin').
Direction lets the story to breathe but doesn't fail in giving it momentum. The performances are near-uniformly strong. The central character in fact is Christopher Robin himself, and while Alex Lawther does very well with teenage Christopher the star here is Will Tilston, who gives a touching and far more layered performance than one would think he was capable of. Instead of being overly-cute, he evokes tears of both playful joy and vulnerable sadness and the film particularly comes alive with the father/son relationship.
As Milne, Domhnall Gleeson is excellent, whether one feels empathy for him is another story but he portrays Milne with an appropriately straight back and reserve and he is every inch the troubled figure. The levity of the story comes in the nanny character played by Kelly McDonald, the warmth and charm of her portrayal is much needed and her common sense invaluable.
By all means, 'Goodbye Christopher Robin' is not without short-comings. The biggest one being the one-dimensional and without-redeeming-qualities character writing for Daphne which consequently makes Margot Robbie portray her far too firmly and coldly, even in the subject matter these approaches didn't gel.
Short-coming number two is not buying and being put off somewhat by Milne and Daphne's far too casual, uncaring even, attitude for Christopher's welfare. This is something that makes one endear to them even less.
Overall, lovely, moving film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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