Simon Dillon reviews the biopic about AA Milne and his son Christopher Robin.
As an author I am predisposed to like Goodbye Christopher Robin, a biopic about AA Milne and his son Christopher Robin, and how the huge success of Winnie the Pooh affected their relationship. Given that I too have drawn inspiration from my children and their imaginary worlds for some of my novels, I fully expected I would enjoy the film. And enjoy it I did. It's not groundbreaking cinema, but it is funny, touching and insightful.
Alan Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) returns from World War I suffering from PSTD; a condition little understood at that time, even by his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie). Relocating his family to the Sussex countryside to pen a hefty anti-war tome, Milne finds he cannot write, to the frustration of Daphne. She then leaves, telling him she will return when he has recovered his mojo. But rather than write an anti-war book, Milne finds himself drawn to his son Christopher (Will Tilston and Alex Lawther, playing him aged 8 and 18 respectively) and his childhood games. The two bond, and Christopher also forms a strong attachment to his nanny Olive (Kelly MacDonald). Along the way we see how the famous When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six poems were inspired (notably Vespers and Disobedience), as well as the characters and locations in Winnie the Pooh and so on. But once Milne's books are a huge hit, and Daphne returns, Christopher struggles with the publicity of being at the centre of the increasingly famous stories. A rift with his father ensues as the shadow of World War II looms.
Director Simon Curtis helms with a sure hand, and performances are good. Some of the supporting characters are drawn a bit too thinly (Margot Robbie's Daphne is particularly underdeveloped, and comes off as rather hard-hearted for much of the film), and this never quite scales the emotional heights of equivalent films (Finding Neverland for instance). Yet the central relationship is charming and believable. Certainly moments where Christopher inadvertently helps his father come to terms with the war are quite moving, as are the bittersweet scenes dealing with unwanted fame and growing up. Childhood is all too fleeting, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who left the cinema immediately wanting to go home and play with my children.
In short, Goodbye Christopher Robin is an insightful look at one of the most beloved properties in English literature, and a poignant father/son tale. Suitable for the entire family, but will be most appreciated by grown-ups.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
View all articles by Simon Dillon