Goodbye Christopher Robin

I wonder in what ways the world would have been different if Alan Milne had not married a perfectly horrid wife. Daphne is an excellent socialite but not terribly prone to marital bliss. She waited for her husband to come back from war and is not impressed with the man who comes back. Her advice to just “not think” about the war is not exactly practical, and then she has a son she doesn’t want or know how to love to cheer him up, and that doesn’t work either!

But of course it’s their son, C.R., aka Christopher Robin, aka Billy, whose stuffed animals and wild imagination inspire the very thing he’ll become known for. And it’s his wife’s abandonment of the family that allows father and son to spend meaningful time together, time enough to write the stories that will enchant the world and change their family forever.

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Domhnall Gleeson plays the famous author A.A. Milne, a man ravaged by war, confused by his wife, haunted by the characters he created. Winnie the Pooh is a beloved story for children, but the people behind it are much darker than I’d imagined. This is not really a happy story. Margot Robbie plays his flitty wife, a woman easy to scorn but Robbie humanizes her, has compassion for her. Kelly Macdonald plays the woman who actually cares for young C.R., a nanny her charge calls Nou but the world will know as Alice, from the books. She’s the one who bears the burden placed upon a little boy upon whom the whole world has expectations. The cast is quite wonderful; even the little kiddo (Will Tilston) playing Christopher Robin is good, as he must be.

But as you can imagine, it’s difficult to flick back and forth between the horrors of war and the child-like wonder that inspired a favourite picture book. It adds little pops of whimsy to lighten the mood, but make no mistake: it is a dark mood in need of lightening. At times the movie really hits the right note, but it’s a tone that’s hard to keep – especially since the point is not really Winnie the Pooh OR war, but the nasty consequences of celebrity. Goodbye Christopher Robin surprised me and moved me, but it’s not a water-coloured, feel-good picture, just the sad truth behind a story you thought you knew all too well.

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17 thoughts on “Goodbye Christopher Robin

  1. Jason

    Good review. Personally, I’m like you about this movie. It was quite a moving feature and definitely not a “feel good” movie, but rather a sad tale of how the fame of one beloved character (and the books) at great personal cost.

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  2. Katrina Morrison

    Hi Jay 😊
    Thank you again for a vivid review. I thought it was going to be like “Finding Neverland” with Johnny Depp. This sounds much more tragic than that movie. I intend to see it; but, with different expectations. It always good to read your reviews.

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  3. Tom

    I think I just got even more jaded just by reading this review. Still want to see the movie, in fact more than before now, . . . . but damn. Jaded.

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  4. mydangblog

    The world of Winnie has always been a lovely escape for me. Even now, I have a copy of Winnie the Pooh and Some Bees on the shelf behind me, along with the figurines Ken got me this Christmas. So I’m torn about seeing this–will it make me sad or make me appreciate Milne even more for creating something so beautiful out of a life so tragic?

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  5. Liz A.

    Kids books and comedians all seem to have dark backstories. I think that’s why they came to be. They needed lighter, so they put lighter in their art.

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  6. mistermuse

    Haven’t seen the movie, but love your review. If bringing the dark side into the light makes the viewer uncomfortable, it is (it seems to me) a needed disabusing of a willingness to not want to see things as there really are or came to be.

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