Director: Simon Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly McDonald, Will Tilton, Alex Lawther, Stephen Campbell Moore, Richard McCabe
Written by: Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughn.
Running Time: 107 mins
Release date: 29th September 2017
The stories of Winnie the Pooh, the loveable bear and his adventures with his friends in the 100 Arch Woods, have captured the imagination of every young child since their first appearance in the 1920’s. Now comes a film that tells the story of how they came to be but while trying not to tarnish the memories of the books and various poems, this is a film that deals with much weightier subject matters, yet while its convictions are honourable, it does fall short in the emotion stakes.
A.A.Milne is a young man who has returned from the Somme during World War 1 a hero but the effects have shaken him to the core. Struggling to cope with his surroundings, Milne moves his family to the country where he stops thinking about writing a book about the horrors of war, concentrating on the adventures of his son’s beloved bear. The books become overnight successes but the price of fame costs, particularly on his son, Christopher Robin, who finds being a star is causing a blip in his relationship, particularly his father.
Director Simon Curtis has constructed a beautifully looking film that captures the wonder of Christopher Robin’s world in almost storybook fashion. Very reminiscent to the child-like visions of Steven Spielberg, the lights through the woods are particularly striking. Yet even as the film has a gentle, almost oil painting quality about it, the underlining subtexts sometimes are not always supported by the visuals.
It was never going to be easy to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and the pressures of fame and loss of childhood without upsetting the fans of the stories. These are heavy subplots that often sit uncomfortably in this world of joy. The relationship between Christopher and his father is often stifled by his Milne’s past horrors, while the boy’s mother doesn’t exist, with her only intention is to push her son to do the interviews and the star appearances. His one solace is with his nanny and here the child is given the love and attention he so desperately needs.
While the intentions are good and this is a handsome looking piece, I found myself emotionally distant from everything and while I loved the Pooh story and they are close to my heart, I felt this was a film that was pulling in all directions without managing to hit its true target.
The performances are exceptional. Domhnall Gleeson, who is slowly becoming more like a chameleon as he has an ability to completely change his look to fit the role, is excellent as the emotionless yet pained Milne, a man who has a stiff-upper lip air about him and yet cannot share his true feelings with anyone. Margot Robbie, sporting a solid English accent, has the tricker role of playing Milne’s controlling wife, a character who is hardly sympathetic and yet she never tips the part into pantomime villain but keeps it this side of human. Kelly MacDonald, as Christopher Robin’s nanny, give another likeable performance with that smile that lights up the screen. However, young Will Tilton as Christopher steals the acting honours. He delivers a performance of maturity and intelligence while still keeping a childish charm. He also looks remarkably like the illustrations from the original books.
Goodbye Christopher Robin has all the good intentions and yet seems to be suffocated by the subtexts, which is a shame. It might have been better if the film was slightly longer to cope with everything it wants to offer. It also might seem a little misleading to people with young children. This is not a film about Winnie the Pooh. The screening I attended had a few young children who were bored after a while, one child asking where Winnie the Pooh was. Good but should have been a total emotional rollercoaster.