|Domhnall Gleeson and Wil Tilston in Goodbye Christopher Robin (20th Century Fox)|
MOVIE REVIEWThe trailers Goodbye Christopher Robin are a bit misleading presenting what looks to be happy history of the family behind the Winnie-the-Pooh books. Instead, the film is a lot more melancholy. Families might also think that this is a family film and while it is only rated PG, the storyline will probably make the younger set uncomfortable at best and bored at the worst. However, if you are a fan of the works of A.A. Milne, then you will probably find this Pooh story to be fascinating, if not as heartwarming as you would expect.
Before the World Wars, A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) was a successful author and playwright with a great wit. (I had the chance to see one of his plays, Mr. Pim Passes By and enjoy the same wit and whimsy that he so cleverly displayed in the Winnie-the-Pooh books.) This thrust him into the limelight which his socialite wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie) truly enjoyed. However, after returning home from the war, he found that he struggled with PTSD. At first, Daphne was supportive of his condition, but soon became frustrated that he wasn’t writing as much as he used to.
The movie paints the picture of their marriage in a very uncomfortable way. Neither showed much emotion to the other and always acted “proper” in public. Daphne especially would rather die than allow her husband to see her cry. However, the two are playful with one another from time to time as she calls him “Blue” for some reason that is never explained (or I might have missed the reason).
After the birth of their son, Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), it is clear that Milne doesn’t have a lot of interaction with his baby boy as he is shown not knowing how to hold Christopher. The couple soon hire a nanny to take care of Christopher so they can attend parties and whatnot. Eventually though, the PTSD bec0mes too much for Milne and moves his family to the countryside of East Sussex much to his wife’s dismay. Though happier, Milne still wasn’t writing. However, after re-learning how to play and interact with Christopher and his stuffed animals, Milne received the inspiration he needed to create his first Children’s book.
This is by far the best part of the movie and is probably what most movie-goers will expect to see when watching Goodbye Christopher Robin, but before long, after the success of the book Winnie-the-Pooh, this movie turns darker. Christopher becomes a celebrity of sorts with a long list of appearance with reporters, radio programs and answering fan mail. Soon his private play time with his father is no more and begins to regret the fame.
It is surprising how uncomfortable it was to watch Goodbye Christopher Robin. Director Simon Curtis tries to balance depression and PTSD with childhood wonderment and it doesn’t always work. The movie feels out of balance. Christopher’s parents clearly loved their boy, but they also didn’t want to be bothered by him either, so the boy doesn’t receive much affection from either of them. Fortunately, he did have the unconditional love of his nanny, Olive (Kelly Macdonald) who treated him better than both of his parents combined. Gleeson does a wonderful job looking bewildered on how to interact with this son until he realized that Christopher understands his father’s wit. Robbie on the other hand is perfectly horrid at times as Daphne is driven by money and nice things. She’s selfish and blames others for her own faults. Neither parent is “bad” but terribly out of touch.
As for Tilston, you couldn’t find a better Christopher Robin. He is everything you expect from this little guy who is especially good in every scene that he shares with Macdonald. So while this may not be the feel-good movie you were hoping for, there is still much to appreciate here.