The Film at Pooh Corner

Domhnall Gleeson and Will Tilston in Goodbye Christopher Robin (20th Century Fox/David Appleby)

Goodbye Christopher Robin balances child-like wonder and imagination with the sadness and uncertainty of wartime and family tensions.

The film gives an unusual biographical glimpse into the relationship of author Alan Alexander Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) to his young son, Christopher Robin (Will Tilston).

Milne is a stressed war veteran, who fought and was wounded in the Battle of the Somme in the World War 1. His relationship to his family becomes fragile as a result, and it was Christopher and his toys that drew Milne back to his family and inspired the magical world of Winnie the Pooh.

His son’s toys included Pooh Bear, Tigger, Piglet and Roo, which lived in his home and “played” in the Hundred Acre Wood around it. Milne writes about them with joy and fun, reconnecting with his son in his imaginary world. When he publishes the stories, he becomes famous, and his son too.

Christopher, his mother, Daphne (Margot Robbie), and Christopher’s nanny, Olive (Kelly Macdonald), are all swept up in the success of Milne’s books. Milne’s stories are a sensation, because they bring hope and warmth to a nation torn with grief. But for Milne and his family, they exact a cost that is personal and painful. All of Milne’s family become celebrities, and fame causes tension. Sadness, anger and frustration creep into their success.

This is a bitter-sweet film that is full of nostalgia, and it taps into many themes. It addresses the impact of war, the difficulties of parenting, the complexity of maintaining loving and caring relationships, the innocence of youth, and coping with the demands of fame.

Throughout, the film captures the whimsy and attractiveness of Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories, but the film works best dramatically as a story about father and son.

Goodbye Christopher Robin captures childhood joy, but mixes it with adult angst. At its core, it communicates the sobering message that fame comes at too much of a cost, if it means that a child’s happiness is ransomed to achieve it.

Contrary to the spirit of Winnie the Pooh this film could be troubling for very young audiences. It is historically significant, insightful, well produced and directed, but disaffecting. It delivers a darker-than-expected exploration of a much-loved set of imaginary tales, and laying aside the teary reunion of its “happy ever after” conclusion, its messages are delivered very movingly.

– Reviewed by Peter W. Sheehan, ACOFB

Goodbye Christopher Robin Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Will Tilston, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, and Alex Lawther. Directed by Simon Curtis. Rated PG (Mild themes). 107 min.

FULL REVIEW

Goodbye Christopher Robin (ACOFB)

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