GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: An Eye-Opening Tribute Uncovers Disturbing Facts
Goodbye Christopher Robin has some redeeming value to it, but it is ultimately too painful for people who love Winnie the Pooh.
At the helm of acclaimed director, Simon Curtis, Goodbye Christopher Robin appears at first to be an old-lady bait movie about the beginnings of a famous childhood storybook. When actually, what we see is an overlong episode of snobbery and downplayed child abuse.
A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) returns from the Western Front as a damaged man with some pretty serious post-traumatic stress tendencies. Because of his troubles, he’s seemingly unable to connect with his newborn infant or his ghastly wife, Daphne Milne (Margot Robbie). Desperate to get away from the noises and hecticness of London, Milne shifts his family to a remote countryside mansion in East Sussex, which is where the inspiration of the Hundred Acre Wood comes to life.
In one very simple line, the rest of the film can be described.
“Come on, Mr. Milne. A little affection, please,” a photographer exclaims whilst coldly clicking away for snapshots of a father and son portrait. It’s perhaps the only moment where we see any sort of physical bond between A.A. Milne and his son.
A Child’s Innocence
Will Tilston. Will Tilston. Will Tilston. What a tremendous young actor he is; and this opening of his into the world of film is just perfect. In his big acting debut, he comes across brilliantly as the innocent, adorable Christopher Robin. A boy who only wanted love and adoration from his parents, but instead, he reluctantly got it from the whole world.
I couldn’t take my eyes off him throughout the duration of the movie. I truly felt sheer sympathy for him and wanted his fate to change before it was too late to come back from; but alas, it doesn’t.
The character of Christopher Robin has been written brilliantly. The problem is, he isn’t just a character. Christopher was a real boy whose destiny was doomed from the very moment that his father plucked the idea from his brain about a book encompassing the stories of his childhood toys. Nicknamed by those close to him as ‘Billy Moon’, he himself is the embodiment of everything that is half-decent about Goodbye Christopher Robin.
The Disturbing Truth
Although masked with consistent hue tones and sunbeams rife with false positivity throughout the cinematography, there is a much, much darker core to the movie. In short, the success of Pooh turns an innocent little boy into a child celebrity, subjecting him to exploitative radio interviews and terrifying publicity stunts with real bears.
Day by day, we witness the loss of a childhood. A childhood that Christopher Robin is desperate to hold onto. Instead, he is forced to answer fan mail, be without his parents on his birthday, talk with children about things he’d rather keep to himself, and dress as a character from a book he is striving to pry away from. Treatment which would be stressful for a mature adult with years of practice to deal with, and it’s merely the tip of the iceberg when thinking about what he was made to do in order to boost his father’s ego and self-worth.
Watching the truth unfold may be just as distressing for the audience. There are moments where we feel we are trapped inside the body of Christopher himself, giving us the impression of feeling smothered and imprisoned. But not only that, it also destroys the ideology of an author and a man who may have once held a special place in our own hearts as children.
Of course, this movie may be a huge exaggeration of the real facts, but it would be a true statement to point out that the lives of A.A. Milne and his son were completely eclipsed by the creation of a cartoon bear. And Milne isn’t the only writer to find himself swallowed up by his own writings. You could say his friend and hero J.M. Barrie wrote with great commercial success after Peter Pan, but who really cared? Peter Pan was, is and always will be Barrie’s renowned masterpiece, and nothing else will come close. But director Simon Curtis, the purveyor of such mediocre waffle as Woman In Gold and My Week With Marilyn, has a certain prowess for unveiling the truth behind a recgonised legend. And he’s certainly done it here.
The difference is, J.M. Barrie never betrayed anyone to creep his way to the top – that we know of. Milne on the other hand – however innocently – outrightly betrayed his son. The magic of the Hundred Acre Wood is that it takes something painfully fleeting and makes it stay forever. The tragedy of Milne’s success is that it trapped a real child in that moment like a rat in a cage, and made it almost impossible for him to become that thing that every child eventually wants to become – a grownup.
We see Christopher Robin bullied, mocked, and completely destroyed, because he wasn’t allowed to grow up without the haunting shadow of Pooh bear weighing in on his shoulders at every moment.
A Bittersweet Tribute
There are elements of Goodbye Christopher Robin that – despite the uncovering story-line – are in somewhat good taste. But the majority of it lets it down massively. The quintessential aroma of ‘Britishness’ is so present, it’s almost too much. Margot Robbie is just about believable as Daphne Milne; in that her accent is sickeningly nauseating and her character is so emotionally unattached from her family in every conceivable way. Domhnall Gleeson as Alan Milne? Not much different. Except he’s perhaps a little more likeable if that’s at all possible.
Whilst sticking to the very root of their upper class, well-to-do manners, neither of these characters are remotely pleasant. Therefore, it leaves you with very little room to want to fight for their family.
However, Will Tilston and Kelly Macdonald truly do save the day in this regard. The realness and purity of their ‘mother and son’ connection is very refreshing; and these are the only two characters we root for. Which is a shame as Goodbye Christopher Robin then progresses to prove that neither one of them really get what they want.
It’s bittersweet to the very last frame. Because there are flashes in which we see Christopher stand up for himself and his melancholy life, but these moments are constantly overshadowed by the continual frostiness of others. The cinematography is admirable, and it certainly makes a much greater imprint on the overall view of the film than the script ever does. I kept waiting for that goosebump-inducing line to happen and it never did. I was hanging on for some sort of closure, but Goodbye Christopher Robin is sloppy with this. Yes, we see an older Christopher Robin return from war and we see his parents release their emotions for the first time upon seeing him. But it wasn’t enough to make up for the sour treatment he’d suffered up to this point.
For a film that is just 107 minutes, it felt exasperatingly long. Interesting? Yes Entertaining? No.
Goodbye Christopher Robin: Final Thoughts
As a film, Goodbye Christopher Robin falls completely flat in too many ways. I wanted to love it, but I came away feeling mostly empty and dissatisfied with the final outcome.
It’s rather sad to think that the fond memories of the characters most of us grew up with – Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood gang – have now been obliterated. I don’t think I’ll ever look at Winnie the Pooh in the same way ever again, which wouldn’t have been much of a bitter pill to swallow if the film had been worth it. But it wasn’t.
Upon watching the trailer months beforehand, I initially thought that it had a lot of promise; but unfortunately, Goodbye Christopher Robin is much too anti-climatic to be memorable. And if you’re a Winnie the Pooh fan, I’d advise you to avoid it at all costs.
In what ways has Goodbye Christopher Robin altered your impressions of the legendary A.A. Milne?
Goobye Christopher Robin was released in UK cinemas on September 29th and in US cinemas on October 13th.
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