Goodbye Christopher Robin works best when it is exploring family relationships of the upper class in post World War I England. On a less successful level, it tries to explore the damage that writers can do to the lives of those around them. While the acting and music work well, the writing and directing never quite unify enough to deliver on its narrative.
Though the origin of Winnie-the-Pooh might seem like an unlikely vehicle for discussing the impact of reckless creators, the true story is a real-world example of the damage of unwanted fame. Goodbye Christopher Robin is the story about how Alan Milne (portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson) wrote the tales of Winnie-the-Pooh and the resulting aftermath. The core conflict revolves around how he uses the real name of his young son Christopher Robin because he was the inspiration for Milne’s stories.
The resulting fame of the actual stories about Winnie-the-Pooh brings excessive attention to young Christopher Robin. Before we get to that conflict, though, the story spends a lot of time exploring the life of Alan Milne after he returns from World War I. As a veteran struggling with PTSD, Milne wrestles with finding a place in civilian life and contributing meaningfully via his writing. Milne is eventually struck with inspiration when forced to spend time with his very young child.
I want to point out that I said forced. One of the more interesting aspects of Goodbye Christopher Robin is the view we get of the relationship between parents and children in this class and time period. Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at this point in the story) is raised by his nanny, and this is portrayed as normal. The film has a lot of value as an exploration of this family dynamic.
My favorite parts are when Milne finally spends time with Christopher Robin. There’s a natural and amusing chemistry between Gleeson and Tilston. It’s downright heartwarming when they’re bonding while living alone in the countryside and exploring the woods.
As you can tell, there is a lot of story to pack into the narrative. Having to cover so much background before getting to the core conflict undermines the drama. By the time you get to the real struggles that Christopher Robin has to deal with, the movie is three-fourths of the way over and rushing to resolve. The final dramatic moments lose all of their weight due to the accelerated pace, and the conclusion fails to deliver emotionally on any of its core themes.
Ultimately, I found Goodbye Christopher Robin to be a fascinating movie with many redeeming elements. Despite failing to successfully build up to its narrative climax, the film does paint a fascinating picture of a certain class and time period. Additionally, it’s filled with endearing and memorable scenes that are rewarding on their own. If you’re in the mood for a leisurely drama and don’t particularly need a strong narrative or final punch, Goodbye Christopher Robin is fundamentally satisfying.
|Final Verdict:||A relaxing period piece that is worth viewing for what it gets right, though it fails to deliver cleanly on its themes.|