If you can get past narcissistic antics of a money-crazed mother, who does not care about her family until money is involved, or show any true compassion for her son at all until he is thought to be dead, then the film Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) is for you. If you can get past the betrayal of a previously unfit father and his use of his own son as a guinea pig for stories, then this film is for you. And if you relish in seeing a child extremely depressed growing up even almost into adulthood, then perhaps you’ll fall in love with the film. It does a splendid job of telling a mostly terrible story in lavish sets and designs, with a story that jumps all over but still forces you to connect with it.
Goodbye Christopher Robin tells the true, and dark, story behind the creation of beloved children's literature character/book Winnie the Pooh. We begin with the book’s author, A. A. Milne (nicknamed Blue), distraught and clearly suffering from PTSD after the first world war, trying to write again. His old profession is proving to be working against him, and he has hopes of revamping his style and career. Upon moving to the quieter countryside, his wife Daphne becomes frustrated and leaves until he is able to write something. His young son’s (the real Christopher Robin, named Billy Moon) nanny, who has practically raised the boy, also takes leave, leaving only Billy and Blue. They are forced to build a relationship, and Blue comes around to the kid. Upon establishing a relationship, he is more open to the playful and imaginative antics of Billy, always playing with his stuffed animals and exploring the woods together. It is through this that Blue rekindles his knack for writing, and Daphne returns, as well as the nanny. But Daphne has begun to sell some early prototypes of Blue’s writing, the prerequisites to Winnie the Pooh, and they begin to skyrocket. Blue eventually sells the story officially, which flies off o the shells and lands them instant success. There is a turn to fame and money, which is largely propelled by Daphne, and Blue simply tags along. What was once a newly-found father-son relationship has turned to greed. When realizing how depressed Billy was becoming, largely thanks to the nanny, he begins to push back and stops writing any new adventures about the bear we know and love. Billy is still tortured by bullies to the point where he wants nothing to do with it anymore. He goes off to war, almost as if to be somebody other than Christopher Robin. When word is spread that he may have died, Blue and Daphne enter a severe depression. Blue is largely affected, having realized his neglect. But things end happily when the very much alive Billy returns and shares all of the hope the stories gave soldiers and how it reminded them of happy things. Something Blue much needed in his time of peril. And, suddenly, Billy loves Winnie the Pooh.
It is no surprise that the film was directed by Simon Curtis, as he seems to have a knack for docudramas such as this, having made dozens. His most notable documentary films have earned him several awards (Simon). And, looking at the majority or the movie’s visuals and direction, camera work, and even casting, it is understandable while he deserves these. The screenwriter, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, is also a perfect suit for this film, being best known for his work on films about children’s literature and dramatizing them for the big screen (Frank). Cottrell-Boyce’s film adaptation of the mostly-true story behind Winnie the Pooh is masterfully done and immensely intriguing… when it wants to be. There are, at times, small lacks of direction, such as with the random flashbacks thrown in as a means to confuse us. There is also the use of clear embellishments for the sake of an interesting film. Apart from this, the dialogue, the story, and everything around it are mostly captivating. The actors are mostly cast as well. If you should choose to compare real life photos with stills from the film, there is an uncanny resemblance in all except Daphne and, the most important character, Blue. Thankfully, this is minimal. And they do a fine job; perfectly capturing the notions of the time, the proper speech, and doing justice to their characters. For anything bad that may come about in the making of this film, they save it.
Given that the film is about the origins of a lovable and cuddly children’s character, it tells of the dark truth. Horrible parents; a particularly greedy mother which will make you want to . A noticeably depressed child who goes through all Hell, which takes forever to get noticed. Media, the general public, and business owners acting like absolute vultures and hounding the poor kid in his fragile state. However, this is of course slightly embellished at times for the sake of keeping the viewer’s interest, when compared to the true history not fed to us by a roll of film. (History) And it should be noted here that, just because it tells the story of a cute and cuddly children’s character, does not mean you should bring any little ones with you to watch it. Violent explosions and gory bloody bodies and intertwined throughout the film with warm and golden images and bright colours of a child playing with stuffed animals. It almost makes it seem unclear as to what direction the film wants to head.
There is something good to be said about this film, however: the mise-en-scene is brilliant and masterfully crafted. The wonderful and elaborate sets, costumes, and styles are a treat to the viewer’s eye, depicting the era perfectly as time passes on. From elegant ballroom dances with pressed suits and flowing dresses to a large, musty brick house secluded in the amazing greenery of the forest and fields, nothing was left out that might delight the eye. The contrast between the two sets mentioned apply perfectly to the film; the quiet home life when writing versus the famous city life full of money and interviews. The characters are completely caught up in these, and it works wonderfully. There is still something to nitpick about in terms of mise-en-scene, however. The film seems to be entirely convinced that in order to convey that someone has aged who is already an adult, all one must do is add some grey to their hair and nothing else. Literally nothing else changes: their face, their costume, their body’s ability. The only character that truly changes is Blue, and that’s because he’s grown up.
There is also wonderful camera work, especially with several well-done match-cuts made near the beginning of the film. For example, an older Blue tosses a cricket ball into the air and it suddenly turns into a grenade over a world war one battlefront. These all wonderfully connect the home life that Blue is seeking and the war he is trying to forget, and the two’s direct correlation to Winnie the Pooh.
The only thing that truly confuses me is how they were able to pull all of this off in under a single year. And, why did it take up to six years to plan yet still only take a few months, really, to shoot?
So that is the good, the bad, and the ugly. The majority of the film’s faults rest in the story, and that cannot be helped as it is (again, mostly) true. Perhaps is the film told the complete truth, it would stand the test of time for years to come. But, unfortunately, the only thing that will make it last is however long Winnie the Pooh itself lasts. Because, while the film has many wonderful visual elements, the same can be said for any movie.
Final rating: 2.5/5
Photo sources: Nerdist, Metro
"Frank Cottrell Boyce." IMDb, 2017. Web. Feb. 2017.
"How Accurate is Goodbye Christopher Robin?" History vs Hollywood, 2017. Web.
"Simon Curtis." IMDb, 2017. Web. Feb. 2017.
My name is Tanner F. Riche. I am a published journalist and author, via numerous newspapers, Amazon, Kobo, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and other sources. Please join me on my journey as a writer. I post occasionally.