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GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is All About the Pain of Growing Up (Review)

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is All About the Pain of Growing Up (Review)

So often in biopics, especially those about creators of beloved works, it’s easy to melodramatize events rather than play them more seriously. I certainly knew very little about Milne apart from his creation of Winnie the Pooh, and the movie didn’t give me any kind of rosy picture of him. In fact, though director Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin sets out to recall the innocence of a child creating stories about his toys with his father, it doesn’t shy away from the reality that his parents may have been cold and unfeeling people.

Domhnall Gleeson does a masterful job as A.A. Milne, a comedy playwright and author who returns home from World War I with heavy bouts of PTSD and a refusal to return back to “normal life.” This point of view is at odds with that of his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), a high-society figure who thinks her husband (whom she and most people call Blue) is just being difficult.

The pair move to the country with their son Christopher Robin, though whom they exclusively call Billy Moon, and his beloved nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) so that Milne can set to work on the anti-war novel he thinks he’s duty-bound to write. While Milne is engrossed in his book—and perhaps due to the custom of the 1920s, I suppose—the parenting of Christopher Robin, a major theme of the film, falls almost entirely on Olive. As such, Milne comes across as aloof for a good portion of the film, and Daphne seems to have no time for any of it, going back to London for long stretches until her husband writes something they can sell.

When Olive’s mother takes ill and she has to go back to spend time with her, Blue and Billy Moon are left to their own devices in the idyllic country setting. This is what gives Milne the idea to use the pretend games he and his son share around his various stuffed animals as the basis for a series of poems and books featuring Christopher Robin and his animal friends. The success of these stories gets out of control, and the real life Christopher Robin becomes an instant celebrity… which leads to all sorts of trouble going forward.

At its heart, Goodbye Christopher Robin lives up to its rather bittersweet title, offering both a warm look at childhood and a reminder of how easy it is to grow up too fast. You can sympathize with Milne’s anxiety about the world following WWI, but not the way he and his wife treated their child once he became a commodity. Curtis threads the needle of that subject rather nicely, and we end up siding with the boy above all, which is the way it should be.

While some of the supporting characters are little more the plot points, the core story of the family and the nanny comes through quite well and gives you insight into the unfortunate side of one of the most beloved characters ever created.

3.5 out of 5 wistful burritos

Image: Fox Searchlight

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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