Goodbye Christopher Robin – movie reviewby James Robins
The sad story of the boy who inspired his father’s Pooh books.
It was all a “jolly little farce”, he sneers to a ballroom of stuffed shirts early on in Goodbye Christopher Robin, a biopic about Milne and his son.
Decamping to the Sussex countryside, Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) yearned to write an anti-war book. Eventually, he wrote Peace with Honour, but not before creating one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time: Winnie-the-Pooh.
Imagining these charming little fables became a kind of therapy as he learnt to bond with son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston, with one of the chubbiest cherubic faces I’ve ever seen), who is mostly left in the care of nanny Olive (the reliable Kelly Macdonald) while mother Daphne (Margot Robbie) is off being a socialite.
Here, Milne goes from nervously carrying the crying newborn, arms outstretched as if his son is a warm oven tray, to grasping his hand on a jaunt through the enchanted forest, which will soon provide inspiration.
All the familiar beats are present: the circular tracks in the snow, Owl in his oaky hideaway, the too-hot bath, Poohsticks on the river, Winnie trailing Christopher down a golden country path.
They are sweet and unassuming moments, and the film generally resists pouring too much “hunny” down our gullets, preferring stiff-upper-lip English stoicism. Even the expected swell of the traditional weepy finale is restrained.
There is, of course, no real soppy ending to this story. The fame that followed the books trailed Christopher for the rest of his life and forced him from the Hundred Acre Wood into the public eye.
Robbed of his childhood, he suffered bouts of heavy bullying at public˛school. So when the next war came, he disappeared into the anonymity of the army.
All this gives Goodbye Christopher Robin a slight tinge of tragedy and regret, which makes Macdonald’s nanny role all the more touching. She tried to give Christopher a regular childhood and protect him from the ravages of a commodified life, but was scorned and derided for it. She is the true centre and heart of the film, caught between adult trauma and wistful innocence.
Video: Fox Searchlight
IN CINEMAS NOW
This article was first published in the December 2, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
Electronic duo Sachi, aka Nick Chrisp and Will Thomas, were plugged by Diplo back in 2015. Now, the 19 year olds are poised to be the next big thing.Read more
There’s something for everyone in the family this Christmas dinner.Read more
Nothing happens if the dishes don’t get done.Read more
The Paperboy agenda. Your guide to what's on now and later in Auckland!Read more
They've been plugged by mega-producer Diplo, and now Auckland duo Sachi is gearing up for the next level.Read more
After performing with Syd Tha Kyd in the US, Bailey Wiley is back recording her upcoming new album.Read more
Start booking your tickets: These summer festivals will be full of sunshine, good beats and good people.Read more