Release Date(s)2017 (January 18, 2018)
Studio(s)DJ Films/Gasworks Pictures/Fox Searchlight Pictures (20th Century Fox)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B-
Goodbye Christopher Robin is the story of how A.A. Milne came to create the Winnie the Pooh books and how they affected the lives of his family.
Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), a successful early twentieth-century English playwright of drawing room comedies, never fully recovered from his stint as soldier in World War I. He is haunted by shell shock, now known as post traumatic stress disorder, an affliction not fully understood back then.
That no one wants to talk about the war that claimed thousands of lives magnifies his distress, and he decides to address the subject in a play. But the resistance he meets from both fellow professionals and his wife combine with writer’s block and nothing gets written.
After he and wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) have a child, the family dynamic shifts. The baby, Christopher Robin, is placed in the care of nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) and Milne and Daphne go about their lives pretty much as usual. Daphne is a woman of privilege who demands luxury and society. She delights her son by using different voices for his stuffed animals during the rare moments she spends with him. Milne is the stiff-upper-lip Edwardian man, the breadwinner who leaves child rearing to others. Olive is the only consistent comfort in his life.
When Milne finds himself left alone with the child, it’s clear he knows little about being a parent but the beginning of a bond is formed.
Milne moves his family out to the countryside for the peace and quiet he needs to write. Walking with his son through the lush woods, Milne sees how the boy uses his imagination and is inspired to write a story for him about a boy and his stuffed animal friends. He even names the boy in the story Christopher Robin.
The book proves to be a tonic for a public depressed by the aftermath of the war and is a huge success. A series of others follow. However, the media cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the boy, melding the real and the fictional Christopher Robin in the public’s mind.
Goodbye Christopher Robin benefits from an excellent cast and a remarkable performance by young Will Tilston as the title character.
Domhnall Gleeson portrays Milne as a man learning the joy of fatherhood when he pauses long enough to see the world through a child’s eyes and shares the experience. His stuffy demeanor softens, as he comes to understand that a child and an adult are distinctly different and a child needs nurturing in the form of love, time spent together, and the sharing of fun.
Director Simon Curtis focuses the film on how fame can upset the equilibrium of a family dynamic and how well-intentioned parents can harm a child by acting in what they believe are his best interests. It’s a powerful yet understated movie that takes the viewer back to a time when a children’s story renewed a sense of joyful wonder in a downtrodden public.
The visual quality of the disc is beautiful, particularly in the scenes of Milne and Christopher walking in the woods, playing their games of imagination. Sun streaking through trees and bucolic landscapes suggests an idealized world apart from reality. Video resolution code is 1080p/AVC. Aspect ratio is 1.85:1.
There is more dialogue in this film than typical contemporary features, and it is clear and distinct. The British accents are easy to understand. Carter Burwell’s score never overpowers the action, and sound effects, especially the heightened sounds of a champagne cork and a balloon popping, remind Milne of the sounds of war. A brief sequence of Milne in combat enhances the volume of guns, explosions, and machine gun fire, in dramatic contrast to the quiet scenes in the woods. Audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Optional subtitles include English, Spanish, and French. The PG-rated film runs 107 minutes.
Bonus features on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include audio commentary by director Simon Curtis and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce, eight brief but often repetitive featurettes, and a photo gallery. A digital copy is included.
Audio Commentary – Curtis and Cottrell-Boyce discuss post traumatic stress disorder and how little was known about it after World War I. They mention that the real Daphne Milne spent only an hour a day with Christopher each day, though in that time she was a wonderful mother. They explain why the public loved the Pooh books, and note that Daphne and Christopher became estranged from each other after Milne’s death.
A Walk in the Woods – Cast interviews provide background on Milne and how his military experience indirectly inspired the Winnie the Pooh stories.
A.A. Milne – Domhnall Gleeson speaks about Milne’s writer’s block, his coolness toward his son, and his typical, formal relationship with the boy until they bond. Milne, taken with Christopher’s imagination, becomes inspired.
Hello Billy Moon – Young Will Tilston discusses the audition process and how he was cast. Fellow cast members comment on his performance.
Daphne Moon – Margot Robbie explains how she approached the role of Milne’s wife and Christopher’s mother without attempting to erase Daphne’s flaws.
The Story – This is a look at the origin of the books. Milne “peers into his son’s imagination” to create Winnie the Pooh and friends, yet inadvertently destroys the relationship he’s built between himself and his son.
Christopher Robin and His Nanny Olive – Cast members weigh in on how Milne and wife didn’t realize that what they were doing for the boy was destructive until it was too late. Lines were being crossed. Kelly Macdonald explains that Olive, Christopher’s nanny, was the only constant, loving presence in his life.
The Cast – Cast members basically applaud each other’s performances. They emphasize Will Tilston’s professionalism, and Will talks about his experience making the movie.
Healing a Nation – Director Curtis explains that the Pooh stories were “England’s and then the world’s way of recapturing the more innocent times before World War I.” Milne showed how precious childhood is to a world that had lost a generation of young men. The books were and are a form of escapism.
Gallery – A series of still photos and behind-the-scenes production photos portray key moments and feature locations used in the movie.
- Dennis Seuling