This will be the first of two “Christopher Robin” films coming out. Granted, the other one, CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, which is starting to look like HOOK (1991) but with Christopher Robin as the grown up and slated to star Ewan McGregor as the titular character, isn’t coming out until 2018. Seriously, it’s been a year of doubles.
Anywho, this film looks like it’s a biopic of the author of the beloved kids books, later beloved animated series, Winnie the Pooh. The author, A.A. Milne, is a war veteran and is tired of writing stories that make people laugh and wants to create one that makes people think. Taking a page from his son, Christopher Robin, he creates the beloved books.
Here’s the on-screen talent. Starring we have Domhnall Gleeson (AMERICAN MADE , BROOKLYN , DREDD , and upcoming films STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI  and PETER RABBIT ), Margot Robbie (SUICIDE SQUAD , THE WOLF OF WALL STREET , TV show PAN AM [2011 – 2012], and upcoming films I, TONYA  and MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS ), Kelly Macdonald (T2 TRAINSPOTTING , BRAVE , NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN , and upcoming films HOLMES AND WATSON  and RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 ), and Will Tilston, making his film debut. Congrats, young sir.
Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing, we have Simon Curtis, known for WOMAN IN GOLD (2015) and MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011). Co-writing the screenplay, we have Frank Cottrell Bryce (known for stuff I’ve never heard of) and Simon Vaughan (A BEAR NAMED WINNIE ). Composing the score is Carter Burwell, known for THE FOUNDER (2017), NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, FARGO (1996), and upcoming films WONDERSTRUCK (2017) and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Smithard, known for THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (2015), BELLE (2013), THE TRIP (2010), and the upcoming THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (2017).
Overall, I really want to love this film. I love the cast and I love the idea of the creation of Winnie the Pooh. I also really love the countryside visuals, as well as the brief imagination bits. It looks like it’s got some cuteness, some heavy drama, it looks pretty all encompassing. About the only thing that I’m predicting is that the little kid might not be a very good actor. I don’t know, every time he shows up on screen, he has big ole wide eyes and looks like he’s about to murder his parents. But here’s hoping that his acting in the actual movie overshadows the… aesthetic.
This is my honest opinion of: GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
Set in post-World War I. Alan Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) is a successful comedy playwright. He is also a war veteran suffering from PTSD and has had enough of making plays that make people laugh and decides to move his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) and their son William “Billy” (Will Tilston) into a cabin in the woods, against the wishes of Daphne. All Alan wants is a little piece and quiet, away from the pressures of writing, but Daphne isn’t settling in well, especially since Alan wasn’t writing much, causing a rift in their marriage and a separation. In that time, Alan and Billy start to bond by spending lots of time together, creating adventures with Billy’s beloved stuffed animals. But more than that, there is struggle with child fame and a family’s struggle to stay together.
I liked it. Probably not as good as I’d hoped, but it’s far more interesting than I expected.
For one thing, I didn’t expect this to be a tragic story. I went in thinking it was going to be a happy peppy tale about how Winnie the Pooh brought so much joy to the world and maybe dabble in how the real Christopher Robin got a little hot under the collar from all the exposure at such a young and fragile age. While technically that’s kind of what this movie is about, it’s more about how this innocent children’s character caused such damage to the family as a whole. Alan is blissfully riding the waves of his book’s success, barely ever considering whether or not Christopher wants to be a part of it. Even when it occurs to him that the boy doesn’t want any part of this anymore, his fame follows him to school where he’s bullied until he enlists into the military at eighteen years, saying that as soon as he joined, it’d been the happiest he’s felt in years. That’s a powerful thing to grow up hating something so innocent and pure. It’s totally understandable though.
The acting is, frankly, phenomenal. Gleeson once again shines as a rising talent and this film is no exception. He plays a man who is desperate to say something profound in his writing that will prevent war. But because of his PTSD, he has a hard time living in city with all the attention and fame. Even when he gets out into the woods with his family, his life isn’t all that much more improved. His wife leaves him because she’s a bitch, and despite his peace and quiet, he can’t seem to write anything. It’s not until he spends more time with Christopher that things turn around for him and happiness and inspiration hit him as hard as the things he experienced in war. It’s heartwarming and certainly made me smile. This is either on par with his performance in EX MACHINA (2015) or even better.
But despite that, if anyone gets an award for favorite character, it’s MacDonald as Olive. You ever meet that person you love so much it makes you sick that you kind of hate them and want to beat them to death with rainbows and happiness, but you can’t because it’s literally impossible? That’s Olive to me. She has been with the family since Christopher was born, basically raising him far more than her actual mother did. She’s always by his side, allowing him to be a child, letting him know how important he is even if his parents fail to do so. Hell, she does a better job of protecting the boy from over-exposure than her parents do. She’s the one that saw the damage that was being done to him before the parents do. And it’s within these scenes where MacDonald and Tilston are together, they’re probably among the sweetest in the film.
And now for young Tilston. This kid is a bit of a hit and miss for me. Some scenes, his lines are the equivalent to a classroom reading of a boring textbook. Other scenes, yeah, my initial impression of him was correct. His eyes are so wide that you’d swear he was going to slit his parents’ throats while they were sleeping. He just seems really awkward at times. But then again, there’s some legitimately great scenes that he does. After the soaring popularity of the Winnie the Pooh books and Daphne has rejoined the family, she tries to do the voices of the animals like she used to. But because he’s spent so much time developing the characters with his father while having such a great time doing it, he almost snaps at his mom, claiming that she can’t do the voices right anymore. And there are moments when he truly doesn’t understand why everyone refers to him as Christopher Robin the character, even though he isn’t that character. He has such a difficult time grasping the concept of his own popularity, even his own identity, which is unbelievably heartbreaking when you watch him get increasingly scared or frustrated. You could even argue that this is what any kid with famous parents go through, especially if they involve them. They can run that risk of not growing up like any other kid and will be treated differently, for better or worse. And of course, any time he’s with MacDonald is really tender and sweet.
There is one huge problem that I had with the movie, and that’s Daphne. This is probably the most deplorable character that I could have expected in a story like this. Daphne is an awful person. I might understand a woman who doesn’t want to move far away from her friends and family, but it comes off more like she’d rather party and have fun than spend time with her husband and son. Hell, even Alan didn’t seem to want to spend time with Christopher. The scene I’m referring to is Daphne leaving and Alan tells her to take the boy with her, to which she basically refuses. It’s honestly not a wonder how Christopher grew up the way he did. Perhaps there’s more to the real story, but as presented here, it’s pretty despicable. But it’s not like this separation is permanent. Oh no, Alan and Daphne never divorce, despite how loveless their marriage is. She comes back when his book is finally written and flies off the shelves. Daphne quite literally wouldn’t have come back to her family had Alan not written the book. Her love has always had conditions and this movie never addresses it. Give Alan some credit, he does spend time with his son and the two create the characters through fun, imagination, finding true happiness together. And Alan does eventually see the error in exposing his son to such… well, exposure, and acknowledges the trouble it causes Christopher and calls it quits on writing anymore about Winnie the Pooh. What does Daphne ever do? She’s a spiteful woman, a neglectful mother, disgustingly not supportive, even taking a great deal of pleasure in exploiting her son. She has zero redeeming value. I love Robbie as an actress, and by all accounts, she’s good in this movie, I just wish the character was written better. Daphne doesn’t have to be a saint, but she had very little humanity to her character that I saw.
Overall, I really like the movie. It’s cute, it’s emotional, and it’s unexpected. It’s a beautiful story about a man and his son and what they created together, and how it saved and destroyed them. Were it not for how consistently unlikable Daphne was throughout the film as a character, I would have loved this movie. But as it stands, it’s still a good film and very much worth seeing.
My honest rating for GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: 4/5