A behind-the-scenes look at the life of author A.A. Milne and the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories inspired by his son C.R. Milne.
Director: Simon Curtis
Writers: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan
Stars: Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Macdonald
Goodbye Christopher Robin opens in the picturesque Ashdown Forest, lens flare bright and the trees a gorgeous green.
Then we see Domhnall Gleeson’s AA Milne receive a letter telling him that his son is missing, presumed dead, and suddenly you realise that Goodbye Christopher Robin isn’t the simple schmaltzy story you thought it was — about how the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh turned his young son into a character beloved the world over – but actually a tragic and sad story about the way that a childhood friend for generations of children ruined the relationship between one father and son forever.
Gleeson stars as Milne, the acclaimed British playwright who returns from World War I a hero but one who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and decides to move his family out of London and to the Sussex countryside.
Goodbye Christopher Robin review: A brilliant tragedy that may ruin your childhood
Watch and weep (Picture: Fox Searchlight)
This decision is for the best for Milne but wife Daphne (played here by Margot Robbie) – still not over the traumatic birth of a baby boy after believing she was to welcome a girl – is less impressed and soon heads back to the city to a life where she can pretend she is not also a victim of the war and that her dream life isn’t crumbling around her.
And stuck in the middle is young Billy Moon – born Christopher Robin but so called thanks to a nickname and his inability to say his real name – whose closest and most loving relationship is with his nanny, whom he calls Nou, and yet who yearns for a close bond with his father.
What follows is a heartbreaking tale of how war changed so many men and how with this man, AA Milne in particular, he focused on the only thing he knew he was good at – writing – to impress his young son and create a world that would make war-torn England smile again but would turn his son against him for so many years.
Gleeson is arguably one of the best actors working in Hollywood right now, able to turn his hand to horror (Mother!), franchise work (Star Wars), and action (American Made) – and that’s just in 2017 – and as Milne he is revelatory, at once stoic British war hero and also a father with a wild imagination who created Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Kango Roo, and the world of 100 Acre Wood.
His work with Will Tilston, as the young Billy Moon, is a joy to watch as the two characters come to life as they get to know each other, and Tilston, making his debut in the film, is a star, taking Billy from what could be a simple role into one with layers that allow the audience to see him as more than an eight-year-old but a young boy battling with his emotions and thoughts and feelings.
Robbie’s English accent is at times too affected – too fake – but her portrayal of Daphne is so good; the little nuances that Robbie brings to the role takes Daphne from a possible one-note character to one for whom you feel for.
It is these performances that bring the film to life, especially when considering recent biographical films on authors – Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton, JM Barrie – have failed to bring their writers alive off the page.
‘There will be a day soon when everyone has forgot about Winnie,’ Milne tells his son at one point when Billy realises this little world they created is no longer just theirs.
Of course this was never going to be true and despite the emotive music of Carter Burwell’s sweeping score and the happy but heartbreaking twist at the end, there is actually more sadness to this film than expected.
It is in fact, a tragedy, a devastating tale of how one little boy ended up resenting his parents for forcing upon him a lifetime of mockery and scorn for simply being the inspiration behind one of the most beloved worlds of all time.
Goodbye Christopher Robin will make you cry – and it may just ruin your childhood forever.
– Rebecca Lewis, Metro UK