Review: ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson as A. A. Milne; Margot Robbie as Daphne; Kelly Macdonald as Olive; Will Tilston as Christopher Robin as a child; Alex Lawther as Christopher Robin as a young adult.

Plot: Famous playwriter A. A. Milne moves to the countryside with his family to try and escape the haunting memories of his service in World War I. There, he discovers the imaginary world invented by his son Christopher Robin, inspiring a series of storybooks that change the world.

For many, the adventures of Winnie the Pooh form a part of treasured childhood memories, the recollection of which bring forth feelings of a safe bed and child-like wonder. Stories of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, and Roo provide timeless insight into a world governed by simplicity and innocence. A moving production, Goodbye Christopher Robin explores a bedtime story we all know, yet at the same time manages to make it feel like an entirely new journey.

That said, I need to make an important point very clear. Despite this film revolving around the creation of a children’s storybook series, this is not at all a film for children. I would even suggest caution concerning sensitive teens. Framed in tones of breathless despair, heartache, and strongly featuring A. A. Milne’s desperate attempt to hold onto the notion that the sacrifices of war are not made in vain, this film provides an unsettling glimpse into the dark frame of mind both citizens and former soldiers found themselves trapped in after World War I.

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Indeed, touching on topics such as PTSD, death, war, the dark side of fame, marital strain, and child neglect (emotional in nature), this film is perhaps not what you would initially expect when thinking of the fantastical adventures of a set of beloved soft toys. Truth be told, the storybooks themselves barely feature in the film, but rather serve as a soft undertone that hints towards more magical things. However, that is not to say that this is a bad film. In many ways, it is a rather good one.

What this film does do very well is balance (and contrast) the horrors of war with the simple joys of childhood. Soft morning sunlight is used consistently throughout the film, transforming jarring moments into fragile ones. There is a part of the film that masterfully combines original black and white illustrations with colourful cinematography (something I wish was done more than once). The toys themselves, although delicately represented, are used to provide dialogue on the idea that happiness can once again be found in a world that has otherwise lost hope. Perhaps living up to its title, Goodbye Christopher Robin does an exceptional job of capturing the innocence of childhood, if only to demonstrate how easily it can be both positively and negatively impacted.

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Kelly Macdonald as Christopher’s nanny and Will Tilston as young Christopher Robin are particularly spectacular in their roles.

Goodbye Christopher Robin is, in short, a film that is a little confused with who it is but is done remarkably well enough that it doesn’t detract too much from the film itself. Considering the stark difference in the possible expectations and the film’s actual content/melancholy tones I can see issues involving younger audiences. Although there are no explicitly adult scenes, I do believe that a Mature rating would have been a more accurate appraisal of the complex undertones and general content of this film, rather than the potentially misleading PG it is rated now.

Putting that to one side, this film provides a powerful and unique perspective on the creation of a well-known and much loved classic. Commendable acting combined with captivating visual effects and stunning settings results in an enjoyable – though highly emotional – film that leaves you thinking well past the last of the credits.

Score: 7 out of 10.