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Goodbye Christopher Robin (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Goodbye Christopher Robin


Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Alex Lawther, Stephen Campbell Moore, Vicki Pepperdine, Richard McCabe, Geraldine Somerville, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Will Tilston.

Screenplay by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan.

Directed by Simon Curtis.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. 107 minutes. Rated PG.

Leave the kids at home and pack your tissues.  Goodbye Christopher Robin is not a child’s yarn of hope and magic. Heartbreaking at times, it is the story of a man grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder while trying to be a husband and a father; the story of a boy who just wanted to be a son.

The movie starts with some beautiful camera work, showing off what we can only imagine is the Hundred Acre Wood. It starts near its end, 1941, where we see a man and woman at work in the garden of their well-to-do brick and proper English home.

The couple is Alan (who wrote under the initials A.A., played by Domhnall Gleason) and Daphne Milne (played by Margot Robbie). They are older, but not unhappy, until we see a messenger on bicycle delivering a telegram. In 1941, people knew that telegrams bring unwanted news. We watch as the couple becomes grief-stricken, fearing the worst even before opening the telegram.

The movie abruptly jumps from the sad, but idyllic countryside to the graphic 1916 Western Front. World War I is in full gear. Then the movie jumps forward again to a ball after Alan’s return. He is riddled with PTSD; a man brought back to the War with every champagne cork or balloon burst, bright lights or with the sound of buzzing.

It becomes impossible for him to return to his earlier life as a well-to-do playwright in London’s West End, a life that Daphne is not only accustomed to, but adores. She knows that he is changed, but does her best to keep him rooted in her reality, even becoming pregnant when she thinks it will make him happy.

Neither is prepared for the reality of parenthood and the new baby. Christopher Robin, (referred to by his parents as Billy Moon), is placed in the hands of the hired Nanny, Olive (or Nou, as Billy refers to her), one of many young women left to work in this time with few men left to marry after the war. We watch Billy age in the arms of Olive as Alan and Daphne resume their society life.

The story pulls into focus when Christopher Robin is eight years old (beautifully played by Will Tilston) and the family (with staff) move to the countryside for Alan to focus on writing a book. He is a man in search of the meaning after he realizes nothing has changed after WWI. He fears (rightfully so) a return to war is inevitable without a better understanding of what they fought for.

Daphne is at her most tender in this transition. You see her playfully introducing her Billy Moon to the new house and surroundings, with his toy animals, Edward Bear, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore. She gives them life with voices and helps with their names. However, then she leaves her husband and son to return to London-promising to return only if Alan returns to his writing.

When Olive returns to London to care for her ailing mother, Alan and Christopher are left on their own for the two weeks that define their relationship, their lives and the children’s literature scene of the time. For both, it is the best time of their lives. It is truly magical to watch as we are shown the genesis behind our beloved childhood tales.

Unlike stories of starving artists, A.A. Milne, with the push of Daphne, is quickly back in the spotlight, a place where Daphne thrives to be. Alan goes along for the ride, in hopes of keeping Daphne happy, at the expense of his son’s childhood.

In retrospect, I am a little surprised by this movie’s PG rating. It was dark and painful in a way that many PG-13 and R rated movies that I’ve seen are not. At one point, I remember thinking that I really needed to get rid of my collection of Winnie-the-Pooh books as their origin was just too painful. (I am happy to report that my books remain on my shelves as they belong.) In the end, through some tears, my daughter and I both felt that the movie was very good overall; heavy and dramatic, but well worth the watch.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: October 20, 2017.


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