I would be somewhat shocked if you had gone through childhood without ever hearing of Winnie the Pooh. The loveable fictional bear with an addiction to honey and an even bigger appetite for adventure has played a part in many childhoods, bringing magic and mischief to boys and girls alike ever since author A.A Milne released the first book about the character and his friends in 1926.
Goodbye Christopher Robin tells the tale of the muse behind the timeless classic – A.A Milne’s creative son Christopher (Will Tilston), affectionately known to his family as Billy Moon, his group of toy animals and his relationship with his famous father, author A.A.Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), known as ‘Blue’ to his son.
With the absence of technology, the 1920’s were a simpler time, and the feeling of a smaller world was in part the inspiration Christopher and his publisher Ernest (Stephen Campbell Moore) used as inspiration for their first book. From climbing trees and pretending imaginary animals are lurking in the shadows, to dropping twigs in the river with Nanny Nou (Kelly Macdonald) , the happy period in Billy Moon’s life is filled with cherished and fond memories. With each shot of the woods near Billy’s home being framed with soft, bright lighting, the film perfectly and endearingly captures the carefree wonder and exploration that the unique period of childhood is, transporting the audience back to their own youth.
Newcome Will Tiltson is excellent as Christopher, who both encompasses childhood innocence and wide-eyed curiosity perfectly, whilst being adorably fresh-faced and articulating his childlike logic. A scene in which he asks his Nanny “How can it be his first night? Blue is about 100-years-old”, is hilarious, as is his explanation as to why his stuffed tiger toy should be called ‘Tigger’. “It’s more Tiggerish,” Christopher explains, seamlessly conveying the sweet-natured humour of the young character.
Unfortunately for Christopher, his mother Daphne (Margot Robbie) seems to keep her child at arm’s length, packing him off to the care of his faithful Nanny Nou, with whom he understandably develops an unshakable bond. Robbie, who swaps the instability of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad to a wealthy socialite, portrays a character that draws rare attention to the emotional plight of Post-War women, but her approach to parenting feels ignorant and self-absorbed.
Despite the fun and enchantment of the majority of the film, the Post-War commentary is palpable. Alan’s trauma is highlighted when the blinding theatre spotlights draw him back to the effects of the battlefield as he’s about to give a welcome speech on stage. The bursting of balloons also causes him to jump, and the sound/sight of bees are reminiscent of the haunting imagery of flies gathering around decaying corpses in the trenches. The effect of war is a subtle but dark undertone, but Billie’s unknowingly method of helping his father recover from shell-shock is delightful to witness.
There’s something unmistakably charming about watching a film portrayed through a child’s innocently curious perspective as an experienced adult. The coming of age story is moving as it goes full circle and highlights what happens when we turn a blind eye and let things slide, exploit those we protect, with the film reminding us that childhood is a time that can never be recovered. With prominent themes of identity, the film also teaches us how the frenzy of fame can rapidly escalate into an all-out whirlwind that carries the risk of losing one’s true self.
If you want to uncover the story behind the infectiously affable and cheeky Winnie the Pooh, Goodbye Christopher Robin is a slow, emotive film that will undoubtedly keep your inner-child entertained. Give it a whirl.