Goodbye Christopher Robin
by George Wolf
Even a story born to combat sadness can have a dark side, and Goodbye Christopher Robin explores one in a film that is perfectly acceptable without ever becoming truly memorable.
The story at its heart, of course, is Winnie the Pooh, the fantasy world A.A. Milne created for his young son which became a cultural touchstone that still thrives today.
Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) returned from service in WWI with recurring flashbacks and an ambition to move beyond writing light entertainment and produce a work that would persuade readers to fully appreciate the horror and folly of war.
Retreating from the bustle of London to the solitude of the English countryside with this wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) and son Christopher (Will Tilston in an incredibly cute debut), Milne finds no inspiration until the boy (known to the family as “Billy Moon”) asks his dad to write him a story.
Extravagant wealth soon follows, along with intrusive fame, bringing confusion and heartache to a little boy who doesn’t understand why he has to share his life with the world, or why a father would write about his son instead of for him. Comfort often comes not from his parents, but from the emotional closeness of his relationship with nanny Olive aka “Nou” (Kelly Macdonald).
Director Simon Curtis (Woman in Gold, My Week with Marilyn) wraps it all in a wondrous, often childlike sheen, but juggles too many contrasting themes to find a truly resonate focus. The script, from Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan, offers fly-by attention to war, childhood, celebrity infatuation and those stereotypically British stiff upper lips.
The entire cast is game, the execution workmanlike and the story endearing. But Goodbye Christopher Robin, much like the family it spotlights, too often settles for safety over emotional connection.