Domhnall Gleeson and Will Tilston in Goodbye Christopher Robin (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
**1/2 (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Simon Curtis
STARS Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie
Goodbye Christopher Robin is a film of several stories and many moods.
It’s a biopic of author A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), best known as the creator of Winnie the Pooh. It’s a story of PTSD, as Milne suffers from flashbacks to the horrors he experienced while participating in World War I. It’s a coming-of-age tale, with Milne’s son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at age 8 and Alex Lawther at age 18), learning to cope with being a star in his own right (and against his will), as the kid whose childhood provided the template and inspiration for his father’s most popular works. It’s a piece about family dysfunction, as there are frequent fissures created between Milne, his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), and their young boy. It’s an inspirational study of how the creative process can be employed to soothe the soul and heal the psyche. It’s a horror story about the cult of celebrity, with an innocent life being subjected to the sort of media frenzy that’s still very much in effect today. And, for those who care to subscribe to this viewpoint, it’s a film about child abuse.
That’s an awful lot of weight for one movie to carry, but the strain really only becomes apparent during the latter passages. For the most part, director Simon Curtis and scripters Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan do a smooth job of integrating the disparate elements to fashion a bittersweet yarn that largely centers on a co-opted childhood. The efforts to reclaim said adolescence would logically factor into any such narrative, yet it’s during the final stretch (basically, when Lawther takes over from Tilston in the role of Christopher Robin) that the picture becomes rushed, clipped and unsatisfying.
Goodbye Christopher Robin makes a valiant attempt at emerging as more than just a traditional biopic. Ultimately, though, its lofty ambitions are almost too much for the filmmakers to bear.