Spotlight Columns

Buttered and Salty: Goodbye Christopher Robin

By From page B2 | November 08, 2017

“Goodbye Christopher Robin”

* * * 1/2

PG, 1 hour, 47 minutes

Biography, Family, History

Watching “Goodbye Christopher Robin” I was reminded that when we go to the movies not only do images get projected onto a silver screen, but we project our lives right back at the images in front of us.

Thus explains the emotional wreck I was at the end of the beautiful and heartbreaking look at the life of author A.A. (Alan) Milne and the creation of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories inspired by his son, C.R. (Christopher Robin) Milne. I don’t cry much at the movies, at least I haven’t in a long time. This one got me.

It could be because I thought about my little boy as I watched father and son marching through the real-life “Hundred Acre Wood” creating the building blocks of a children’s book phenom since 1926.

Or it could have been the memories of Winnie-the-Pooh lining my room as a small child. My mother likes to remind me constantly that my nursery was almost exclusively filled with that “silly old bear.”

The point is, “Winnie-the-Pooh” and friends — including “Piglet,” “Tigger,” “Owl,” “Eeyore” and several others — are part of our heritage. There was a lot of love for the source material as the lights dimmed in the theater.

This is a quiet film. A majority of it takes place in the English countryside of East Sussex and only features a few characters most of the time. Director Simon Curtis lets the material breathe, which modern audiences used to quick-cutting Transformers-style action may find tiresome. I found the pace just about right.

The film is sentimental but never too sugar-coated. It plays with our nostalgia but keeps the focus on the relationship between the young C.R. and his parents, which if you are familiar with the story was strained at times. The film never shies away from that aspect of the story and reminds the viewer often that the young namesake of the film was pretty much raised by his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Domhall Gleeson (“Harry Potter”, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) does fine work as the brilliant but tormented creator of Winnie-The-Pooh, while Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn from “Suicide Squad”) is effective as the loving but selfish mother. A.A. Milne came back from World War I (“It was the war to end all wars; there won’t be another,” he erroneously declared) struggling with PTSD, while his wife Daphne dealt with the end of the war trying to re-create the good times before the world turned upside down. Neither is emotionally equipped to raise a child. Thank goodness for the nanny.

When the time comes to actually spend time with his son A.A. doesn’t have the first clue, so the young boy takes the lead and helps his father enter a world of make believe. This helps A.A. get rid of his writers block and create a classic, but the subsequent celebrity lifestyle is not a healthy one for the boy. For both father and son, great art comes from deep pain.

The real star of the show is of course the namesake of the film, 8-year-old C.R. Milne, played by doe-eyed actor Will Tilston. I was amazed to learn that this is his first feature film. He is perfect casting.

Just like in the era where Winnie-the-Pooh was created there is a need for simple pleasures. While emotionally layered “Goodbye Christopher Robin” also brings with it a lot of happiness and the memory of the innocent times of childhood. We could all use that from time to time, especially these days.

Or as one of the characters reminds us, “Find something to be happy about and stick to that.”

Joshua B. Porter is a writer/director/producer. The most recent film he produced “August Falls” is currently available on Amazon Prime as well as other streaming services. He can be reached at @joshuabporter or [email protected]

Joshua Porter

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