A film about “Winnie the Pooh” has to be happy, right?
Not so fast there, Tigger.
In “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” we get the real story behind the celebrated book. Based on the life of author A.A. Milne and his son, “Goodbye Christopher Robin” shows how the children's classic came to be and how it affected the family’s life.
For starters, Milne wasn’t exactly putting his son’s best interests first. A cantankerous sort, Milne (Domhnall Gleason) was given to outbursts and frustration. When his writing career stalled, he didn’t know what to do – and then the adventures young Christopher (Will Tilston) had with his teddy bear and stick forts proved inspirational – particularly for the book’s illustrator.
The result blew up and made Milne a worldwide sensation. Meanwhile, Christopher became a superstar, largely because fans wanted to get closer to the story. Milne and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) didn’t stop the intrusion. Instead, they trotted out their son at lots of occasions and let resentment fester. The kid became bratty, the attention became overbearing.
Kids at school taunted Christopher; mom and dad weren’t exactly sympathetic.
Director Simon Curtis certainly paints a bleak picture – particularly since this isn’t the era of selfies and Twitter. The father/son relationship is chilly. When Christopher ages, he’s determined to go to war, change his image and become his own man. Mom and dad aren’t keen on that, but the die is cast and he’s off.
As you can imagine, all doesn’t go as planned, giving “Goodbye Christopher Robin” a tearful moment of realization.
As the older Christopher, Alex Lawther is curt and bitter. He isn’t afraid to open up to his parents about their behavior; he doesn’t hesitate to tell others what he thinks of the book.
A relationship with a nanny (Kelly Macdonald) is much closer than the ones he has with relatives. They bond – particularly on their trips outdoors – and find family isn’t always created through blood.
“Goodbye Christopher Robin” is a tough film – a hard one to watch if you’re expecting something different – and a good primer on the downside of fame.
The film tells enough about the Pooh regulars to give us an understanding of everything (the kid should have gotten major writing credit) and the stupid things people did to tie in with the book. (Yup, the boy actually posed with a bear.)
In the end, we get a quick update on all those in the story. All didn’t end well for the Milnes.
But Pooh emerged unscathed.