Wow this film took me back. Winnie the Pooh was a big part of my early childhood growing up as I’m pretty sure it was with most children. The magic of children’s stories is that to the mind of a child is that they are the key to unlocking the question of what world you’ve just been born into and the result is the greatest reaction a story can bring out of someone, a smile. Goodbye Christopher Robin therefore has one job, to make people smile. Simon Curtis has managed this reaction with his warm narrative of a father and son relationship.
I was surprised by the amount of depth this film had as I had expected this film to be your typical biographical where in fact the film even stretches that genre label since it primary focus is shifted between the characters and their relationship with one another. The core of this film is the boiled down to a story of a son wanting a father figure in his life, but the exploration the film undertakes within its own characters is marvellously clever. With this is mind, I wouldn’t walk into the cinema expected to see how Winnie the Pooh was born but rather a story of many struggles.
I had expected for the film to be as imaginative and as charming as the popular children’s book itself, but I never expected to see the filmmakers put is as much effort as they did to make this film look gorgeous, especially with the lighting in the scenes that take place in the forest. Seeing the sun’s rays through the trees make the inspiration for the author and central character A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) more believable as well as enhancing the imagination of his son Billy Milne or Christopher Robin (Will Tilston). This attention to beauty is continued by a select number of sequences being mixed with the drawing style of the novels themselves, this not only does this respect the material it is paying homage to but also settles the audience into the familiarity of the stories.
To all the films charm there are horrors that plague these characters which are the struggles that they must overcome. For A.A.Milne its dealing with not being able to write due to his post-traumatic stress after fighting in world war one which albeit says exactly what is says on the tin however the struggle with the most depth to it is Christopher Robin’s struggle into being associated with his fictional counterpart. Seeing him in the limelight gives the film plenty to say about the unhappiness child stardom can bring and is something that we can all draw comparisons from. Again, this struggle does come back around to the interaction with his father as he is constantly pushed to do more interviews and photographs as his father can stay behind and be proud of his writing becoming popular. You do feel sorry for the boy that he is being pressured by his parents and Winnie the Pooh’s popularity which has the result of making this film more emotionally engaging to the audience to the point where we feel immeasurably sympathetic.
The relationship between the Milne family are expressed clearly and are incredibly well thought out. I must applaud the scripts ability to develop its characters. The point A to point B journey for each character is very refreshing. While the clarity of expression is clear, at times there are little blips in the acting, Domhall Gleeson’s portrayal of A.A. Milne while emotionally impactful, it’s often very wooden, there are scenes in which his face and body are a stiff as a mannequin which blocks the audience from instantaneously knowing this character, we will eventually understand him but it takes a lot of committed focusing. If anything it is Margot Robbie who plays his wife Daphne who has the better consistent performance.
The film takes us through the Milne family’s ordeal of having to go through two world wars and whilst we are given a lot of information about how the first world war affected their lives, the second world war period is seemingly rushed through and given only the most basic of information to the audience. The film also chooses for a more handheld approach to scenes where they could have just been easily shot with a still camera, it is because of this that some of the scenes distort from the pace set by the narrative.
Goodbye Christopher Robin nonetheless will almost certainly put a smile on your face. Whether the nostalgia hits you in the characters of Winnie the Pooh, going on adventures in the woods or having a game of Poohsticks, you will be able to find something that can transport you back to childhood through the eyes and mind of Christopher Robin. Director Simon Curtis must be praised because in the worlds current climate, it might be time for Winnie the Pooh to be brought back into the limelight like it was for this films world.