DIR: Simon Curtis • WRI: Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Simon Vaughan • PRO: Steve Christian, Damien Jones • DOP: Ben Smithard • ED: Victoria Boydell • DES: Ellen Brill • MUS: John Debney • CAST: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Alex Lawther
Goodbye Christopher Robin is a film which delicately weaves together the threads of family, fame, and recovery. Touching on transgenerational trauma and regret, the film is preoccupied with the notion of recapturing a feeling of warmth and happiness. Upon receiving a life-changing telegram on the status of his son fighting in World War Two, A.A Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) begins to remember the tender interactions with his child, events which inspired his famous Winne-the-Pooh novels.
Tainted by the trauma instilled as a result of serving in the World War One, Milne returns to London feeling disenchanted and uncomfortable at the ease at which upper-class life returns to normal. Suffering from PTSD and vehemently opposed to the concept of war, Milne relocates to the countryside, much to the annoyance of his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie). Isolated by quiet country life, Daphne returns to the city. Shortly after, their nanny, Nu (Kelly Macdonald), also returns to aid her sick mother, leaving Milne alone with his son, Billy Moon (Alex Lawther). Being unaccustomed to child-care, Milne and his son tentatively begin to bond, growing fiercely close as Milne finds new inspiration in his son’s games with his stuffed animals. Daphne returns, and the first Winnie-the-Pooh stories are published. However, the success of the books thrust shy Billy Moon, the real-life Christopher Robin, into the spotlight, and soon the line between the novelty of child fame and exploitation begin to blur.
Healing appears to be the main theme of Goodbye Christopher Robin, the film is spiked by its stages; denial, resistance, relapse, accidental selfishness. Milne hopes that running from the chaos of London will prevent his PTSD from being triggered, but soon finds that countryside sounds can be just as violent. His time with Billy Moon proves soothing, as the child helps to rationalise frightening noises and encourages Milne to push through pain. Without sufficient medical support, there are aspects to Milne’s actions that are slightly volatile, and he is tinged with regret from the times he’s lost his temper. Working on Winnie-the-Pooh and bonding with his son prove therapeutic, but as celebration spills over into exploitation a certain sadness is passed onto Billy Moon, who grows up under the shadow of the boy his father has penned him to be. What had brought Milne and Billy together drives a hard wedge between them in later years, with Billy’s longing for anonymity resulting in him signing up to fight a war. In his desperate pursuit of happiness, Milne’s accidental selfishness pushes his son far, far away, and the film becomes a study in bittersweet remembrance and the taunting nature of hindsight.
Touching and heartfelt, Goodbye Christopher Robin is a biopic that finds its focus beyond the books it celebrates, and instead searches for a human connection behind the childhood characters and scars of war.
Sadhbh Ni Bhroin
PG (See IFCO for details)
Goodbye Christopher Robin is released 29th September 2017