Goodbye Christopher Robin is an above average biopic. Director Simon Curtis and screenwriters, Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan, explore the origins of how Winnie-the-Pooh was created and the relationship that author A.A. Milne had with his son, Christopher (who served as the basis for the character named after him). As a kid, I remember growing up on the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and his adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. While the film features good performances from the actors, the film ultimately suffers from some of the tropes you would normally see in your typical biopic.
The film is set after World War I and A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) is trying to find inspiration for his new book. Cold and distanced from his friends and family, Milne has trouble connecting with people. After Milne, his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) and his son Christopher (Will Tilston) move to the countryside, A.A. still has trouble finding his inspiration. As he finally starts to connect with Christopher, A.A. begins to write more, and Christopher asks to write a story for him. Using Christopher’s imagination and his stuffed animals as basis, A.A. begins to write stories about Winnie-the-Pooh (which is based on Christopher’s stuffed bear) and it becomes an instant success. With the fame that he wanted in hand, A.A. doesn’t see the harm that it causes Christopher until it’s too late.
The film succeeds with the acting that’s on display. Gleeson as A.A. Milne, or ‘Blue’ as Christopher calls him, is particularly good and I liked the arc that his character goes through in the film; going from somewhat cold to caring and everything in between, it’s a good showcase for the actor. Robbie, playing Daphne, A.A.’s wife, puts in another solid performance as someone who doesn’t particularly care for her son and constantly shifts the blame when things go bad. Kelly McDonald as Olive, Christopher’s nanny, stole the film from time to time as she looks out for Christopher’s well being. The kid who plays Christopher, Tilston in his first role, succeeds as well with a natural performance. Another aspect of the film that Goodbye Christopher Robin does well is showcasing A.A.’s PTSD and how it affected people around him. The film displays interesting transitions, like when A.A. goes from the battlefields of World War I to a ballroom in an instant.
I also liked the contrast between A.A.’s cold-hearted reality that he’s seen to Christopher’s innocence, and for the most part, they balanced that well. This is a well paced film. The makeup effects that they placed on the actors as older versions of their characters was believable. Perhaps the strength of the film is that it works to show how much of Christopher’s childhood that A.A. basically exploited for gain and the toll that it took. What’s the ultimate price for selling your child’s life and can you ever recover for what you did? Can you reconcile that you basically had no childhood?
The film could have fought harder to go against some stereotypical biopic tropes that you’ve seen time and again. With a biopic, you know that they have to hit certain beats along the way. Adversely, the film seemed like it glossed over things, when it should have gone more in-depth in sections. The third act feels truncated, as if they were running out of time. I wanted to see and feel more of the torment that Christopher went through as kids started to pick on him and the growing resentment he had for his parents. It’s as if the filmmakers were close to nailing it, but pulled back. If they went more in-depth, I think the film could have been even stronger then what we see on-screen.
Overall, Goodbye Christopher Robin features some good performances. As I said before, even though they go in-depth in some places, I wished it did more when it came to some important facts. I will give the film points in that it’s rare to see a biopic that focuses on the negative side of what was its main character’s greatest creation. If you’re a fan of the Pooh, you may want to spring into theaters this weekend!