Biography Family

'Goodbye Christopher Robin' Film Review: A beautifully crafted but imperfect story about the bond between father and son

October 13, 2017Ferdosa Abdi

Starring Domhnall Gleeson as A.A. Milne, the playwright behind Winnie-the-Pooh, Goodbye Christopher Robin is a touching British drama that follows a young Milne as he grapples with post-war anxieties and writer's block, eventually finding creative inspiration from his interactions with his son, Christopher Robin.

Gleeson is spectacular as Milne, the soldier who returns to London feeling disenchanted and suffering from the traumatic aftereffects of World War I. Milne — or "Blue," as he's known to his friends — returns home to a society that holds little regard for what the war represented and, even worse, seems utterly oblivious to how terrible it actually was. Unable to continue penning comedies and pandering to the elite, Blue yearns to write something that will actually make a difference. He and his wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie), decide to have a child to lift them from their rut, but little do they realize the impact he will one day have on the world.

Initially, Christopher Robin Milne — aka "Billy Moon" — is left largely in the care of his nanny, Olive (Kelly Macdonald). Yet, despite the great distance this creates between Billy Moon and his parents, he grows into an adorable, precocious and loving little boy (Will Tilston). After Blue moves his family out of the city, Billy Moon's imagination is nurtured and cherished by Olive at the Milnes' new home in the country, which sits on the edge of a beautiful English forest, soon to be the home of Winnie and his odd assortment of animal friends. And after circumstances force Blue into caring for his son alone, the two finally begin to forge a real connection.

As for Daphne, the film depicts her as a less-than-ideal mother, but she nonetheless plays a vital role in instilling a great sense of imagination in her son. However, the story is ultimately about the bond between father and son, and the great joys that go along with having a child. The movie can also be taken as a lesson on how important it is for children to feel loved and to be given space to let their imaginations flourish. It is also a lesson on how not to exploit your child, and as the story progresses, it becomes less about Winnie — or Billy Moon, for that matter — but rather the importance of being a family and being aware of each other's feelings and needs.

The result is a beautifully crafted film about one man's struggle to find purpose after living in darkness. We follow Blue for most of the movie, as he grapples with how to put his life together after the war, but once his son enters the narrative, the story becomes about the two of them. The perspective shifts between Blue and Billy Moon, especially when Winnie becomes more of a factor, and the film is at its best when we see how his parents, Winnie and fame has affected the younger Milne. However, Goodbye Christopher Robin falters in its third act, when it fails to pass the narrative perspective to a teenage Billy Moon (Alex Lawther), who rejects both his father and Winnie.

Research into Christopher Robin's real life shows he had a difficult journey growing up, especially when the world seemed to have invaded his childhood. In this respect, director Simon Curtis and screenwriters Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan could have perhaps adjusted the story's pacing or even added some scenes to the movie’s third act to include Christopher Robin’s perspective. As it stands, things end rather abruptly. Yet, despite these hiccups, the overall film is rather good, and proves to be a fascinating story for Winnie-the-Pooh fans everywhere.

Goodbye Christopher Robin releases October 13th, 2017 from Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for thematic elements, some bullying, war images and brief language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 47 min.

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