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I watched this wondering if it was going to be a dull, forgettable
period piece or a tedious biopic and was very surprised just how good
it actually was.
This is a really solid film with good performances and nicely directed. The plot concerns the true story of the life of the young Christopher Robin and the changing relationship he has with his parents in the 1920s.
It blends the mental trauma his father has been living with since his WW1 experience, and Christopher Robin's own traumatic childhood, both of witnessing his own parent's fractious relationship and then the deep unhappiness of having his life turned upside down when his fathers book, Winnie the Pooh, becomes an enormous and unexpected worldwide hit and inadvertently makes a celebrity of Christopher Robin.
This is a film primarily about family relationships and it is extremely well written too. Will Tilston, who plays Christopher Robin at 8 years old, puts in an exceptionally competent and sweet performance that makes you genuinely feel for the character.He finds the only person who actually understands and shares his anguish is his nanny, Olive (Kelly MacDonald). Olive too notices how unhappy Christopher Robin becomes but her pleas fall on deaf ears.
The only real flaw in any of the characterizations is Margot Robbie's turn as Daphne, Christopher Robin's mother. Whilst Domnhall Gleeson's AA Milne at least has some back story to explain why his mentally tortured writer is struggling to shake off his demons and thus oblivious to his son's reluctant celebrity status, Daphne comes across as somebody who is a bit cold and shallow and has no problems with watching her son get exploited to make the book a success. This may of course be what she was really like but the film doesn't dig very deep into her character. However this is a minor quibble in an otherwise well made film.
There are moments of humour in the script and no bad language so I expect this film will appeal to older audiences as well as families. The film is also just about the right length too if you like a good old fashioned biopic/drama. There is also a moral at the heart of this tale about the need to let children have a normal childhood, which is very much applicable even now.
This a lovely film focusing on the relationship between A.A Milne and
his son, Christopher Robin and how together they became sucked into the
world of Winnie the Pooh.
With good performances from all this is a wonderful film, all about lost innocence and the importance of family. We are left with the question about whether Milne really did his son too many favours by placing him in a children's book after all.
Special mention must go to Will Tilston, who plays the young Christopher Robin so beautifully.
I hope this film goes onto wider acclaim, because I thought it was marvellous.
REVIEW - GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
Honestly didn't know what to expect when I went to see this film. As its based (loosely) around the creation of the Winnie The Poo stories I thought it was going to be a children's film but.......
The film itself is actually and surprising very good, touching on the family dynamic of the upper classes during the 1930s to 1940s.
Very stand offish parents who seem to care about their social standing rather than their son (Christopher Robin) and how this impacts on all of their lives.
Looking at how one person can force the hand of another, in this case forcing father and son to actually spend time together and bond.
Lessons can be learnt from this film, no matter how much you work, your children want you.
Thoroughly enjoyable film on many levels.
Rating 10 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on fact, a biography set in 3 distinct time periods, World War1
jumps to the 1930's and then World War2.
The beginning examines the horrors of war, A. A. Milne fought in World War 1, when returning home we see how he's traumatised and still suffering from shell-shock, demonstrated by disturbing flashbacks triggered when a car backfires or a balloon bursting.
The film follows the origin of the classic book 'Winnie the Pooh', how it was created, how it was inspired by the author's son and toys. Portrays how we might imagine middle class England was at that time. There is an obviously frosty, distant relationship between AA Milne and his son, you'll probably be surprised how gloomy the family's home-life really was.
A.A Milne was already a successful journalist and playwright, but his war experiences motivates him to write an anti-war book, he moves the family to the country to concentrate on this. They take on a nanny (Olive) who builds a close relationship with their son.
Unfortunately the author suffers with writers block and this results in his wife selfishly moving back to London until he can get his head in order and write again. The wife is a very un-likable irritating character, there was nothing redeeming about her personality!
With the wife away the film becomes so much more interesting when the father starts to pay attention to his son and a friendship develops, this unlocks A. A. Milne's imagination. The book is written at a time when the population needed uplifting, and the book does that splendidly. The book and his son quickly become a worldwide success, although the sudden fame has a negative effect.
The older version of the son is sent to boarding school and is constantly bullied until the students are conscripted to World War2. Unfortunately the son fails the army physical / medical although his burning ambition is to go to war, so he asks his father to pull strings to get him in and he does. We see the son in military uniform leaving on the train but soon a telegram 'missing in action-presumed dead' is unfolded.
This is where many of the audience pulled out their tissues.
I would not recommend this film for children, the very emotional WW2 scenes makes this probably not suitable for a young audience.
The thought of a biopic that charts the touching story of the creation
of a children's tale that has meant so much to so many over the years
instantly makes me think of Finding Neverland, a sweet film I'm very
fond of. In many ways, Goodbye Christopher Robin is very similar
bitter-sweet, heart-warming, full of nostalgia; you could easily swap
Johnny Depp for Domhnall Gleeson and Kate Winslet for Margot Robbie
(although the characters differ greatly). Although this story behind
Winnie the Pooh doesn't contain quite the same childish magic and glee
that the story behind Peter Pan gave us, it's still a delightful,
emotional story told in a joyful, touching way.
The film as a whole addresses several themes and it's really a bit of a mishmash it's not just about the creation of the Winnie the Pooh books; it's about the impact of war, the troubles with early 20th century parenting, tricky father-son relationships, the joy and innocence of childhood, and the pain and price of fame. This all works as both a strength and a weakness of the film; in many ways it's wonderful to have such a wealth of topics and the variety keeps things fresh and interesting. On the other hand, some themes aren't fully explored to the extent they could be and it feels as though it's missing something occasionally. It never really focuses on one theme and so does tend to meander around all these topics, telling a vague story; at times it seems to be more a series of scenes with just a semblance of story. Of course this is because the story itself is fairly simple, so it's nice that they enriched the plot with so many themes; it just feels as though it could have benefited from a little more detail.
Nevertheless it's a film that's a joy to watch and brings with it a load of emotions sniffles and tears seemed to permeate the cinema. This is down to a couple of things; firstly the characters and the story they go through together; but more than that all the references (some obvious, some subtle) to Winnie the Pooh and the rest of Milne's work. From small quotations and images, to creating a little wooden hut to house one of Billy's toys, there are plenty of nods to Winnie the Pooh and these can't fail to bring a nostalgic tear to anyone and awaken fond childhood memories. The childhood especially is heavily romanticised and anyone can identify with Billy Moon in some way, bringing to mind all the happiness and innocence we experienced as children. This is all complimented by beautiful cinematography, making the wilds of Ashdown Forest seem absolutely stunning and really strengthening the magical quality of childhood and its inexhaustible supply of imagination and charm. In fact it's this middle section where the world of Winnie the Pooh is created that is the strongest part.
There aren't a great many characters in this film, making it all seem more intimate, allowing us to grow attached to the characters though at times this can be challenging. As excellent as Gleeson is, it can be sometimes difficult to understand and empathise with him as his character is so stiff and reserved; still Gleeson gives us a wonderful contrast to this and how time with his son helps him to loosen up and re-discover his 'inner child'. Margot Robbie's Daphne comes across as a missed opportunity. Stunning and beautiful as always, it's hard to imagine Robbie playing a detestable character, but this she manages to do and do well. It's just the writing doesn't really seem to do her credit as we aren't given a real insight into her character. Kelly Macdonald and Will Tilston do shine though. Macdonald's Olive grounds the film as the friendliest, least complex adult character and Tilston exceeds all expectations you would have from a nine year old in their first ever acting role. Sheer innocence and childishness emanates effortlessly from his big eyes and little movements. He really is the heart of the film and fortunately they make the most of him. Sadly every boy has to grow up, but Billy Moon's 18 year old self played by Alex Lawther fills the shoes of his younger counterpart well, giving us the necessary angst and emotion needed.
Perhaps not quite the early Oscar contender I hoped for and it lacks some of the magic that I loved in similar film Finding Neverland. However, this is still a great film, dripping with emotion, nostalgia and a romantic view of childhood; exploring a wealth of themes and with some excellent performances (particularly from the titular Christopher Robin) and affectionate references to a childhood classic, Goodbye Christopher Robin is a lovely, bittersweet film for the whole family. Bring the tissues this one's going to move you.
Greetings again from the darkness. Are you ready for a family- oriented
movie based on the origins of the universally beloved children's
character "Winnie the Pooh"? Well, despite the PG rating, this is not
one for the kids no matter how much they adore the cuddly,
honey-loving bear. When you realize it was directed by Simon Curtis
(WOMAN IN GOLD) and co-written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (MILLIONS),
filmmakers known for their crowd-pleasing projects, the final version
could be considered borderline deceitful.
It's 1941 when we first see A.A. Milne and wife Daphne receiving an unwanted telegram whilst tending the English garden. We then flashback to 1916 when Mr. Milne was serving on the front lines of WWI, and returned with a severe case of shell-shock (described as PTSD today). His episodes can be set off by bees, balloons, and bulbs. This affliction also has him in a deep state of writer's block accompanied by a need to write an important anti-war manuscript.
Domnhall Gleeson plays the famous writer and Margot Robbie his wife. The 1920 birth of their son Christopher Robin makes it clear that lousy parenting exists in every era. Neither father nor mother have much use for their offspring, so they enlist the help of a Nanny Olive, played by Kelly Macdonald. Does it sound like a wonderful family flick so far? Well things do pick up when C.R. is shown as an 8 year old played by screen wonder Will Tilston. His bright eyes and dimples so deep we wonder if they are CGI, bring joy to the viewers, even if the parents remain icy and self-centered.
The film's middle segment allows father and son to bond on long walks through the 100 acre wood, and we are witness to how the toys become the familiar icons of children's stories: Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, and of course, Tigger. The picturesque English countryside makes a beautiful setting for the adorable and energetic C.R., known at home as Billy Moon (nicknames abound in the Milne household).
Unfortunately, the father-son segment leads to even more atrocious parenting. After the book is first published in 1926, young Christopher Robin becomes little more than a marketing piece for the family business. The walks in the woods are replaced by radio interviews and publicity appearances. No matter how Nou (the nickname for Nanny Olive) tries to bring normalcy to the boy's life, the parents remain oblivious to what is happening.
Alex Lawther appears as the 18 year old Christopher Robin. He's committed to serving his duty in WWII after surviving boarding school bullying and hazing. Equally important to him is escaping the shadow of the celebrity childhood, and finding his own identity one that is not associated globally with a fuzzy bear. The innocence of childhood stolen by selfish parents is painful to watch, whether 90 years ago with the Milne's, or today with any number of examples.
The 3 reasons to watch this film are: the photography is beautiful (cinematographer Ben Smithard), those other-worldly dimples of a smiling boy, and the near-guarantee that you will feel better about yourself as a parent (if not, you need immediate counseling, and so does your kid). In this case, being a well-made movie is not enough. The film is a bleak downer with the few exceptions teasing us with the infamous whimsy of the classic stories. Sometimes pulling the curtain back reveals a side of human nature akin to war itself. We are left with the impression that the audience and readers are to blame being held accountable for the misery suffered by the real Christopher Robin. Crowd-pleaser? More like the blame game.
The story of AA Milne (played here by Domnhall Gleeson) finding his own
self-worth and connection with his son through 'Winnie The Pooh,' with
a greater focus on the stories themselves, could have made for a
delightful one-hour Sunday special. While "Goodbye Christopher Robin"
includes these elements, the attempts to transpose them into a wider,
meaningful narrative sometimes fall flat.
The opening jumps between three different eras in as many minutes, and the transitions are jarring and abrupt in a way that needlessly disorientates the viewer. Once the film has settled down in East Sussex, some issues that plague its running time develop.
It can be hard to care for the problems of someone for whom money is no issue and has Margot Robbie for a wife. The writers have solved this through showing Milne suffering from PTSD after serving at the Somme, though it's difficult to say how much it relates to the historical figure himself.
Milne was more the overt patriot that the film portrays, serving in the WWII Home Guard (not included in "Goodbye Christopher Robin") as well as the Western Front. He also managed to get his son into war even after he failed a medical, which is included in the film but doesn't fully delve into Milne's volte-face on an anti-war philosophy portrayed.
This impact of war on Milne plays a key role in the film, but it never quite fits smoothly into place. However, it is interesting to follow Milne's arc as he is tempted into the woods and childhood imagination by his son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), and the best parts of the film come as he and his son play in the forests of Hartfield.
Something the film captures well is the origin of Winnie The Pooh in British quaintness, a far cry from the sugar-soaped creatures that exist today. Whatever "Goodbye Christopher Robin" is, it has avoided the misguided catastrophe of the upcoming "Peter Rabbit" film.
A highlight of the film is the relationship between Christopher Robin and his nanny (Kelly Macdonald). Macdonald brings both a warmth and a quiet sadness to the role, and while Will Tilston is as vaguely annoying as most child actors it's possible to believe in a real connection with the pair.
Margot's Robbie's character doesn't work. She's a manipulative, self-interested harpy, more interested in the fame of her son than his development as a child. I'm sure some people with a familiarity with Daphne Milne may take an affront at this portrayal. From a story perspective, her early behaviour can be assigned to post-natal depression, but in later scenes, she transforms also into a thinly developed antagonist to get knocked down by moralising characters.
East Sussex is a beautiful county, adoringly shot in "Goodbye Christopher Robin." While these woods are so important, and director Simon Curtis does try a few things to add variety, unfortunately, there does get to be a level of visual repetitiveness to all the trees and pooh sticks.
A sentimental event in the final act, referenced in the opening scenes, feels manipulative as the narrative is suddenly reversed. Yet in spite of flaws, "Goodbye Christopher Robin" can fleetingly capture the wonder of Winnie The Pooh and has genuinely heartfelt moments. It's also probably one more for the adults than the kids, which is unfortunate considering its subject matter. Although there is a clear sense of conclusion to the film, there is also talk of a sequel.
A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories captivated me as a child and they
are still wonderful stories through young adult eyes. The stories
epitomise childhood innocence, the atmosphere is enough to enchant
everybody regardless of gender and age and the characters are some of
the most charming in children's literature (Disney's treatment of them
as some of their most famous ever creations is every bit as special).
Hearing that there was a biographical drama based on the man, his life and his family, the desire to see 'Goodbye Christopher Robin' was overwhelming. Was not disappointed at all after seeing it today, it was a lovely biographical drama even with Milne's life not being what one would expect reading the stories or being familiar with the timeless characters, his dark and troubled personal life being the anti-thesis of the innocent and charming world created in his Winnie the Pooh stories. That was actually what was so fascinating about 'Goodbye Christopher Robin'.
'Goodbye Christopher Robin' in biographical terms fascinates and illuminates. But the film fares even better judging it as a film on its own merits, on this front it is a lovely very good film that is neither the potentially cutesy cookie-cutter film one might think it would be reading the title or the overly dark and joyless one that one would fear upon looking up what the film is about. It's more layered than either.
The film looks great for starters. The beautiful cinematography, with its vibrant hues, really brings the film to life in a way that reminds one of how a story book would. The settings and costumes are both sumptuous and vivid, making the viewer feel like they've been transported in time to that period and being part of it. Carter Burwell's string-heavy score is luscious and stirring in its elegance. Both combined creates a really nostalgic quality that could have been at odds at the dark portrayal of Milne's and his family's personal life but it's an effective contrast.
When it comes to the writing, 'Goodbye Christopher Robin' is very intelligently and thoughtfully written and, considering that it has a subject matter where it is so easy to go heavy-handed and be too much of one tone, has evidence of sensitivity and nuance with touches of bitter irony in how such a happy childhood depicted in the stories was very much a miserable one in real life. The nods and references to Milne's work are clever and affectionate, enough to make one's eyes well up with aching nostalgia. The story is cohesive and never feels like it's jumping around too much or lacking momentum, it also has a lot of heart and affecting poignancy in how Christopher tries to get his father to loosen up and the interaction with his nanny (along with Christopher the warmest and most sympathetic character in 'Goodbye Christopher Robin').
Direction lets the story to breathe but doesn't fail in giving it momentum. The performances are near-uniformly strong. The central character in fact is Christopher Robin himself, and while Alex Lawther does very well with teenage Christopher the star here is Will Tilston, who gives a touching and far more layered performance than one would think he was capable of. Instead of being overly-cute, he evokes tears of both playful joy and vulnerable sadness and the film particularly comes alive with the father/son relationship.
As Milne, Domhnall Gleeson is excellent, whether one feels empathy for him is another story but he portrays Milne with an appropriately straight back and reserve and he is every inch the troubled figure. The levity of the story comes in the nanny character played by Kelly McDonald, the warmth and charm of her portrayal is much needed and her common sense invaluable.
By all means, 'Goodbye Christopher Robin' is not without short-comings. The biggest one being the one-dimensional and without-redeeming-qualities character writing for Daphne which consequently makes Margot Robbie portray her far too firmly and coldly, even in the subject matter these approaches didn't gel.
Short-coming number two is not buying and being put off somewhat by Milne and Daphne's far too casual, uncaring even, attitude for Christopher's welfare. This is something that makes one endear to them even less.
Overall, lovely, moving film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am arguably one of a handful of people who have never read a single word of A.A. Milne. I've been an avid reader all my life yet somehow Milne eluded me. I recall a family gathering when I would have been around ten and noticing a cousin with a copy of 'The House At Pooh Corner'. I assumed it was a one-off ephemeral as a butterfly ... I was, hover, conversant with lines like 'if I open my fingers a little bit more I can see nanny's dressing-gown on the door ...' and 'They're changing guards at Buckingham Palace ...' but made absolutely no connection with Winnie The Pooh. So I came to Goodbye Christopher Robin in more or less ignorance. My first impression was of lyrical photography, next it struck me as Merchant/Ivory lite and I think both impressions hold up. As a study of a dysfunctional family it was also up to snuff; traumatised father, hedonistic bitch of a mother, small boy in the middle. It was all rather well done and I did learn that Milne senior had been a successful journalist and playwright long before, like Algy, he met a bear.
Not having any serious connection with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the
rest of the children's story, Winnie the Pooh, I am perhaps even more
ready than its devotees to admire Goodbye Christopher Robin. It's a
biopic of great sensitivity that mixes nostalgia for the most popular
children's book ever with the harshness of two world wars and the
practice of parents leaving their children with nannies in the first
quarter of the 20th century.
I now wish I had a stronger relationship with those little critters and that lovable boy, for I could have used the distraction from the aftermath of WWII just as Pooh was able to do for the world after the war to end all wars. Author A.A. Milne (a stoic and yet lovable Domhnall Gleeson) was traumatized by his service in the war, and moved slowly to erase that PTSD while creating Pooh. The film spends too much time on his trauma, but it does help fill out Milne's character.
Yet, this is the story of Billy Moon (a remarkably-dimpled, serene Will Tilston), as Christopher Robin is called in real life, who supplies his dad with inspirations for the book. The film centers on remote dad's growing love for the boy and the book while remote mom goes off to London to do who knows what. The film carefully shows how children might be lucky to have a nanny like Neu (Kelly Macdonald) to give them love and some creative inspiration along the way.
Goodbye Christopher Robin is a successful biopic because it doesn't spare the story of anti-helicopter parents who endanger the mental health of their children with their absences. As fame overtakes the Milne family, the film still relays the sense of wonderment Billy had as a child immersed in love of his forest, animals, and imagination.
The biopic may be counter to what we expected of a world-renowned author of a book for children. That he had difficulty initially interacting with his own child is unusual, but the film is successful showing how he warms up and creates a masterpiece as well.
Though not always a feel good movie, Goodbye Christopher Robin makes you wish he'd never go away. It looks like he never will.
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