GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
Directed by: Simon Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald and Will Tilston
Run Time: 1h 47min
Genre: Biography, Family, History
3 ½ Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
The best-loved children’s book of all time is Winnie-the-Pooh. It was published in 1926 by a man ruined by war, for his son who was ruined by the book. This film brought a story that I wasn’t expecting to see. A.A. Milne, the writer of the infamous tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, came up with the story in a lovely way but the history of it and infamy from it all but ruined what was left of his family.
A very accomplished playwright and author, Milne found it hard to write at all after returning from a war he was so deeply against. Milne served in both World Wars. He joined the British Army in the WWI, served as an officer and was a captain of the British Home Guard in WW II. He was against the wars and it affected him greatly to have been a part of them. The film shows that the strain of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder destroyed an otherwise outgoing and accomplished man, making him somewhat misanthropic and reclusive. When he heard or saw any loud sound or flash of light, his mind and body would prepare for battle. Milne was against and afraid of war. He was a pacifist but joined to fight evil Hitler. He once explained that “In fighting Hitler, we are truly fighting the Devil, the Anti-Christ. Hitler was a crusader against God.”
The movie shows a man truly unhappy. What he thought would happen to him because of his writing, did not. What he desired to be known for wasn’t a little children’s book, no matter how popular. He wanted to be appreciated for his novels. The writers of the film, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan, drafted for us a man torn completely in half, fighting what he wanted to and what he had become. He wanted to make a prolific statement against war. Milne shouts that he is, ‘tired of making people laugh… he wants to make them see.’ Once Pooh entered his life, however, that was all over.
What seemed so tragic is that Alan Milne, Domhnall Gleeson, (About Time, Calvary, The Revenant, American Made) and his wife Daphne, played ever so chillingly by Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad) had grown to enjoy a particular lifestyle that they didn’t want to leave behind. Having a child, Christopher Robin (Tilston) did get in the way of partying with friends, especially for Daphne. They hire a nanny right away named Olive, played rather warmly by Kelly MacDonald. I use the word warmly because for years she watches the boy grow without much love toward him coming from where it should. If it weren’t for her, he would have known almost none.
They all move to the country, hoping to spark something inside of Alan to get him writing again and when this doesn’t work, Daphne returns to London to give him time to think. She leaves her son, as well, which seems to bother neither of them. When at this time Olive must leave, Alan is left to look after his boy. He’s a father who loves his son but is broken and clueless about how to care for him on a day to day basis. When this is worked out, he finds himself enjoying time with the child. They walk through the giant wooded area that is their property and make up stories about animals in the wild. This is the inspiration of the world of Pooh. Alan sees the book come to life and gets his illustrator to come out and begin sketching. The creativity on director Simon Curtis’ (My Week with Marilyn) part to include the real boy turning into sketches is magnificent.
Daphne returns, the book is published and Christopher Robin becomes a sideshow. His parents allow him to be pranced around like a horse in a circus for any and everybody who wants to photograph, meet or speak to the child. Olive is worried about his popularity, so is Alan but not for the reason one would think. He didn’t want to write some story that made his child successful; the star of the show. He wanted the attention. The boy always seemed to get in the way of his desires and ambitions. And though he loved writing, he didn’t much like having written books that stole his own dreams.
Tilston is a cherub-faced, darling little boy with huge dimples in his cheeks and a cute haircut that frames his face. His voice and accent are incredibly pleasant and sweet, so much so that you’ll find nothing else interesting to watch if he’s on screen. He was absolutely adorable which makes you angry for how this boy is treated.
My final thoughts are, Gleeson walks around half dead which brings the pacing down a bit but the boy and that face more than makes up for it. The illustrations are striking, the acting is well done and the story itself, one I was so shocked to learn, make this a compelling film for you to add to your weekend theatre visit.
Anyway, I haven’t told you the ending of what ultimately happens to the family. I will warn that the film does take some liberties with the truth. However, stay for the end to see real pictures and some postscript that gives you a little bit of extra detail.