Released 23rd November (Australia)
Seen 29th November
Directed by Simon Curtis
Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce & Simon Vaughan
Produced by DJ Films & Fox Searchlight Pictures
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Will Tilston & Kelly Macdonald
A few days ago I reviewed The Man Who Invented Christmas which took the story of how Charles Dickens wrote one of the most beloved stories of all time and intercut it with the very story he wrote to create a comedic exploration of how a writer creates his story. Goodbye Christopher Robin has a slightly different idea in mind… namely, it want’s to rip your still beating heart from your chest and make you suffer from a serious case of the feels.
The story of Winnie The Pooh is one of the great classics of literature and to explore how the story was written could be interesting and the parts of this film that address that are sweet as hell, seeing little Christopher playing and his father getting inspired by how he plays all create sweet moments. What really makes this film special though is that it’s more an exploration of PTSD. The film is set shortly after the first world war where Alan Milne (Played by Domhnall Gleeson) served on the front lines and it’s fascinating watching this legendary author dealing with that trauma while trying to get back into his writing.
On top of that, the film also deals with the issues that a wife of a man in the army might go through, seeing Daphne Milne (Played by Margot Robbie) trying her best to keep up appearances and act like a normal housewife but also dealing with the aftermath of the war. There’s a rather beautiful scene where she shows her fear of her son growing up because when boys become men, men go to war. Her being scared that her son might leave her makes her uncomfortable and almost try to separate herself from her son so it won’t hurt as much if he goes to war and Margot Robbie turns in easily one of the best performances in the film with her attempts to deal with her husband being back and her fear of the future. It helps that she has a great nanny Olive (Played by Kelly Macdonald) who ends up being more of an actual mother to young Christopher Robin and it’s genuinely adorable.
Speaking of Christopher Robin (Played by Will Tilston), his storyline is the most interesting because he has to go from a young child to the main character in a famous book, it becomes a story of a childhood that got sold around the world and a child’s disillusion with his family for turning his playtime into a commodity and it’s powerful stuff that really does have a lot of emotional punch.
Is this biography like what happened in reality? Well… up until Christopher Robin went off to the second world war? Sure, that seems to line up with what we know about his real life. They never mention him marrying his first cousin (Yeah, Christopher Robin married his cousin… that’s a thing I learned while writing this!) so there is clearly some editing done to try and make this story more palatable and I’m OK with that. Movie adaptations of real-world events are always tricky and sometimes they have to change things in order to make them work as a film, I accepted that long ago. In this films case, the changes that they made to the real story work in context and sell the story of the real cost that this famous book.
What doesn’t work that well is the lead, he’s very wooden in quite a lot of moments and some of that can be passed off for him suffering PTSD but for the most part, it’s just that he doesn’t seem to care that much. In scenes he shared with his wife, she was working at a 9 while he was holding steady at 4. Also, some scenes just felt like they were there to look pretty and had no point, a little tighter editing might fix it up. Also there’s a bit right near the end which was just a pointed attempt to pull at the heartstrings that really doesn’t make sense, also pretty sure it didn’t happen but they do it and… when you get to the end you’ll know what I mean, but it’s jarring and I don’t like it.
Goodbye Christopher Robin does exactly what it sets out to do, it’s a sweet movie about a sweet book and the not-so-sweet effects it has on a family. It’s enjoyable, it’s nothing truly special. It’s a film that can best be described by the lyrics to the Disney version of Winnie The Pooh. “All stuffed with fluff”