Goodbye Christopher Robin – Movie Review

By Leslie C. Halpern

Remember those happy lyrics from the Winnie the Pooh song? “Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, / Where Christopher Robin plays. / You’ll find the enchanted / neighborhood, / of Christopher’s childhood days.” Well, Goodbye Christopher Robin is a riveting biographical drama that casts a bit of gloom over the blissful existence of a little boy and his anthropomorphic stuffed animals.

Goodbye Christopher Robin. Photo copyright 2017 Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Inspired by the true story of A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), who created honey-loving Winnie the Pooh and his fuzzy friends, the film looks at how a world opens its heart to the lovable woodland creatures to escape recently experienced horrors of World War I. Milne returns home from the War debilitated by post-traumatic-stress disorder, and writes plays and books as a means of escapism.

Milne Wants to Make People See

He reaches the point where he needs to leave London for the country with Daphne (Margot Robbie, as a cold-hearted mother and wife) and their young son (angelic little Will Tilston) for some peace and quiet. It’s here that he plans to write an anti-war book that will change the way people attempt to solve their problems. Tired of making people laugh, Milne wants people to see and think.

Daphne wants no part of such a plan and heads back to London for more partying. Meanwhile the family’s beloved nanny (Kelly Macdonald) leaves for a few weeks to take care of her dying mother, which means father and son are left alone for the first time. During this extended period, Milne finally bonds with Christopher Robin (who is nicknamed Billy Moon), making up stories about the stuffed animals and having adventures in the woods. Although his son asks Milne to write a story for him about the animals, he writes a book about his son and the animals that captures the world’s imagination.

Enormous Wealth for the Family

The sudden success of these books brings Daphne back home, earns enormous wealth for the family, and casts a lonely little boy in the international spotlight. Billy Moon insists the boy in the stories is not him, and recoils from the interviews and media attention. His star-struck parents, however, exploit the boy for fame and fortune at the expense of his happiness. Only the nanny observes this sad state of affairs and gets fired for speaking her mind.

At times lighthearted and joyful, other times dark and disturbing, Goodbye Christopher Robin tells the sad story behind one of the most beloved literary creations of all time. Gleeson comes across as a well-meaning, but clueless father, so lost in his PTSD and imagination that he’s rarely accessible to his son. Robbie’s portrayal of Daphne is downright frigid; beautiful and fun-loving, she’s selfish and insensitive most of the time. Little Will Tilston, who plays eight-year-old Christopher, has an androgynous appearance with enormous dimples and large, newly acquired permanent teeth. He’s quite good at throwing a major tantrum or displaying a subtle nuance of disappointment.

Cinematography is lush and beautiful with close-ups of beautiful faces and clothes, and gorgeous longshots of the woods near the family’s home. Apart from a manipulative scene toward the end and an extremely unflattering portrayal of Daphne, this film mostly tells the story behind-the-story without telling us what to think.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

  • This true story looks at how author A.A. Milne’s literary success with the Winnie the Pooh stories takes a devastating toll on his family.
  • Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Will Tilston, Alex Lawther, Stephen Campbell Moore
  • Director: Simon Curtis
  • Writers: Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan
  • Genre: Biography Drama
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: PG (for thematic elements, some bullying, war images, and brief language)
  • Watch a trailer for this movie