Review: Goodbye, Christopher Robin

Yes, I’m a cynic in real life. But movies are when I let go of all that…usually. That’s what I was expecting from Goodbye, Christopher Robin: a couple of hours of unashamed twee sweetness and sentimentality. And, that’s sort of what it is, but this film tries way too hard.

So you have young AA Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) returned from World War 1 with PTSD, to a wife (Margot Robbie) who  is a society girl and has a baby to please her husband but apparently has no idea that childbirth isn’t easy. It’s not clear whether she genuinely had a difficult birth but she persists in saying it “nearly killed” her.  The boy, named Christopher Robin but for some reason called Billy is handed over to a nanny (Kelly MacDonald) so the parents can go on with their socialite lives. But PTSD doesn’t go away and the family moves to the country, where Alan feels there will be fewer triggers (and yes, that’s my modern language interpreting it).

Alan is a writer who wants to write some kind of anti-war treatise. But in their country home he has difficulty putting pen to paper. His wife, bored and frustrated, walks out on him, declaring that she will come home if he writes something. The nanny has to take some time of to care for her sick mother, leaving Alan to take care of his son alone. And that’s when Winnie The Pooh is born, out of their play in the woodlands around their home. He sends a poem to his wife who promptly has it published without consulting him, and the phenomenon begins. Poor Billy is dragged into the whole thing, world-famous as the “real” Christopher Robin.

Plot-wise, it’s quite a dark story: the father struggling with PTSD, both of them pretty awful parents, the child first swept up in this craziness of fame and later never able to leave the books behind him and bullied because of it, goes to war to escape it and still can’t. But at the same time it has this Disney-like tone to it: the colours are all warm and welcoming, the period costumes accentuate the old-timey feel and the whole loving-family thing is over-emphasised and too sweet. There’s too much optimism, too much perfect-life-in-the-English-countryside to let the story become as dark as it maybe should be. So instead it engaged my cynicism and I found I really disliked nearly every character by the end. Including the kid.

I think that if you’re someone with a lot less cynicism than I have, and if you like sweet and childlike-innocence, you will probably love this. I’m afraid I didn’t.