Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin

Film Editor Emillie Gallagher is disappointed by this deconstruction of Winnie the Pooh's origins

The stories of Christopher Robin and his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh have held a spot in my heart for as long as I can remember. Growing up with the tales of Pooh’s adventures in the hundred acre woods, I’m not ashamed to say that I was actually pretty excited about seeing the movie of the beloved character’s creation. I booked a train home and took my mum for an evening out, feeling it was only right to share the reminiscent experience with her.
In the unlikely event that you are unaware of the story of Winnie-the-Pooh I’ll fill you in now. Pooh is the teddy bear, and best friend of the young boy Christopher Robin and together, they spend their days in the hundred acre woods eating honey, climbing trees, and playing Poohsticks, simply a harmless and charming childhood tale. Quite the contrast to Goodbye Christopher Robin.

the film went from the uplifting tale of a young boy to a story that was gloomier that a tail-less Eeyore
The film begins by taking us back to the era of World War One England. Switching between scenes of A.A Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), or ‘blue’ to his friends, surviving open fire in the trenches of 1916 France, and Milne and his beautiful wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) attending the glamorous parties of the upper class post war London, the film follows the life of the infamous author.  Cleverly switching between the two realities the film portrays Milne’s ongoing turmoil as, despite being one of few to escape the trenches, we see that it is not as easy for him to escape his memories, as he’s transported back at the pop of a champagne cork.

As the story took these darker turns I was left feeling rather disappointed, and maybe even mildly crushed
Milne is not shy in stating his distaste at the way in which the world is seemingly moving on, unchanged, after the events of the war and he, quite dramatically, states “I’ve had enough of making people laugh, I want to make them see”. After this declaration, we see Milne, Daphne, their son Christopher Robin (or ‘Billy Moon’ as he is called by his family) and the Mary Poppins esque nanny, ‘nou’ (who seems to do a better job of parenting Billy than his mother and father combined) abandon their lives in London and up sticks to settle in an idyllic country home in East Sussex, where Milne plans to write a story to inspire a nation.
It's at about this point that the film becomes the uplifting tale that I was initially expecting. After Daphne, Billy’s undeniably glamourous but seemingly cold and detached mother makes a stand, abandons the pair and returns to the more fitting environment of life in London, the relationship between father and son flourishes. When Milne, struck with writer’s block, suggests a walk in the woods, the pair finally bond over playing cricket, improving their woodwork skills, and playing out the stores of Billy’s stuffed animals in the ‘hundred-acre paradise’.  Here was everything I had hoped for, the warm familiarity of the image of Milne looking over his shoulder at his son, wondering aimlessly through the sun bathed forest, dragging his golden bear behind him. I would have loved nothing more than for the next image to have been that of the closing credits. But alas, this was not the case. Instead the film went from the uplifting tale of a young boy playing in the woods with his father, to a story that was gloomier that a tail-less Eeyore. As the success of Milne’s story of Winnie-the-Pooh skyrockets, we see the tragic effects that a life of fame caused for 6-year-old Billy Moon as he’s paraded around like a ‘show pony’ and later bullied into a deep desire to essentially be invisible. 

Cleverly switching between the two realities, the film portrays Milne’s ongoing turmoil
The film was, in places, the charming tale I had hoped for. The scenes of dimple-faced Will Tilston playing in the sun soaked woods with his father, blowing up big red balloons and dropping twigs over an old wooden bridge were pretty much exactly what I wanted to see of the life of the real Christopher Robin. But there was a lot more to the story than these happy moments as the film exposed the truth of Billy Moon’s essentially heart-breaking life. As the story took these darker turns I was left feeling rather disappointed, and maybe even mildly crushed.
All in all, the film caused an array of emotion, starting slow, reaching an uplifting peak, and then plummeting into a dark abyss of misery, the tale, I would argue, is not at all a celebration of Winnie-the-Pooh but is instead an example of the disappointment of reality.

VERDICT: If I had to say what I took away from this cinema experience, its this: if you like your kids, don’t write a book about them, and if you like Winnie-the-Pooh, don’t watch this movie.

Rating: 6/10


10th October 2017 at 12:00 pm

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