Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017), directed by Simon Curtis, is a British period drama about the British author A.A. Milne, the writer of the celebrated and much beloved Winnie-the-Pooh children stories, and the impact his widely successful creations had on his family especially on his son, Christopher Robin Milne affectionately called Billy Moon. Domhnall Gleeson stars as the shell shocked A.A. Milne and Margot Robbie stars as his glamorous and self-absorbed wife, Daphne. Kelly MacDonald stars as the loving Nanny Olive called “Nou” by Billy Moon. Will Tilston stars as the Young Christopher Robin aka Billy Moon age 8 and Alex Lawther as Christopher Robin Milne age 18.
The film is sandwiched between the two world wars and dramatizes the inspiration and creation of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories by the PTSD afflicted writer. The film opens with a wide angle shot of Ashdown Forest, Sussex , England, 1941, the dappled light seeping through the green foliage of the trees saturating the screen. It cuts to a wide angle shot of a female bicycle courier in the background, to a shot of Daphne (Margot Robbie) gardening, to Private Milne (Alex Lawther) in uniform and off to war, to the bicycle courier delivering a telegram to A.A. Milne (Gleeson) about his son Christopher Robin, and then dramatically cuts to a scene of World War I on the Western Front involving the elder Milne in combat. Much information is gleaned in these brief snapshots.
The film is based on a true story which forms the basis for the film. The writing process and the development of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories are integral to the narrative and storytelling. The film dramatizes Milne’s relationship to his young son, Billy Moon, and the impact the success of the books had on the development of his son when the public goes wild when they discover he is the inspiration for the character, Christopher Robin, and his teddy bear Edward for Winnie.
It is such a visually appealing film especially the juxtaposition of real and the surreal (A.A. Milne’s flashbacks of his soldiering in the Great War), and the animated sequences when the Winnie-the-Pooh stories come to life. The film’s imagery not only captivates but stretches the imagination. The director has woven together many visual elements to create a compelling film where success meets misery, sadness and disappointment set against the English countryside between two world wars.
Curtis creates an intimate and moving portrait of the Milne family helped by the superb acting of Gleeson, Robbie, MacDonald and the child actor Will Tilston who is so wonderful to watch as the precocious, loving, sweet, and utterly adorable young Billy Moon. You’ll love not only the acting but the cinematography. The breathtaking wide angle shots of the Essex countryside, beautiful images of Ashton Forest, the backdrop to the narrative and where father and son bond and where the Winnie-the-Pooh stories take shape, the black and white footage of the Milnes’ trip to New York City and use of archival footage to situate the film in time and place, and weaving within the storyline actual events such as the photo shoot of Billy Moon with Winnie the black bear at the London Zoo. Some of the most powerful and disturbing images in the film are A.A. Milne’s flashbacks of war in the trenches of World War I.
If you are a fan of British period pieces, biopics, or family dramas, you’ll love this film. It is an inspirational film that celebrates the human spirit, and it is a beautiful film about the creation of art from illness and the power of art to heal and reconcile. I am fond of period pieces for they allow me to experience and escape into a world beyond my social and cultural experiences, and Goodbye Christopher Robin did that for me. It is a wonderful film, and a must to see for fans of Winnie-the-Pooh stories.
Fox Searchlight Pictures releases Goodbye Christopher Robin in theatres on Friday, October 13, 2017