Goodbye Christopher Robin Blu-ray Review

Warm, moving drama, if a little safe 3.5 Stars

A handsomely produced story showing the effects of fame and familial mistakes. Despite brilliant performances, the drama doesn’t always connect as deeply as expected, though the film still creates emotional resonance (through those brilliant performances).

Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)
Released: 29 Sep 2017
Rated: PG
Runtime: 107 min
Director: Simon Curtis
Genre: Biography, Family, History
Cast: Vicki Pepperdine, Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Tilston
Writer(s): Frank Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan
Plot: A behind-the-scenes look at the life of author A.A. Milne and the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories inspired by his son C.R. Milne.
IMDB rating: 7.2
MetaScore: 54

Disc Information
Studio: Fox
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 47 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Case Type: Standard with Slip Sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 01/23/2018
MSRP: $34.99

The Production: 3.5/5

“A person should do the things the person loves, with the people a person loves. Because you never know what happens next.”

Upon his return home after serving in the British Army during World War I, Alan Milne is haunted by the horrors to which he bore witness. Struck with post-traumatic stress, he returns to writing for the stage, but cannot shake the terrible memories of the war. After the arrival of their first child, a boy, the life he leads with his wife Daphne isn’t changed much at first. To them, their young son, Christopher Robin (though he will be known as Billy Moon to those closest to him), is something they have rather than an extension of their family. The boy is left largely in the care of their live-in nanny, Olive. But chance would intervene several years later after they’ve moved out of the city to the quiet of the countryside (to help Milne quiet his war trauma). There the young Christopher Robin accompanies his distant father on walks through the picturesque woods. Over time, they form a closer bond. From their playful adventures together comes the story of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eye-or, and other the friends in the 100 acre wood (the tales of his son’s stuffed animal). The story becomes a book, the book becomes a sensation, and Milne enjoys an unprecedented level of success. But Christopher, to the consternation of his father, becomes the fancy of the adoring public who clamor to see and talk to the boy. And Christopher’s life is never the same.

Goodbye Christopher Robin’s warm and picture-perfect production belie the haunting sadness at the core of the Milne family struggle. Director Simon Curtis builds their world with a sheen of English countryside idyll while A. A. Milne builds the stories of the 100 acre wood. Sadly, the family is eventually torn asunder by those very same stories. Writers Simon Curtis and Frank Cottrell-Boyce show us the journey of Alan Milne as he struggles against the weight of his war experiences and the surprise fame that came with the publication of his book, “Winnie the Pooh”. For those unaware of the story, the effects of the “Pooh” book’s popularity on an already fragile family is heartbreaking, though the film isn’t dark and depressing. Far from it, really. Goodbye Christopher Robin captures the beauty of life, celebrates the innocence of childhood, and admires the gentle thawing of author Milne’s frigid manner. Yet the weight and ramifications of Milne’s success and he and his wife’s choices, create the film’s dramatic core, even if that drama doesn’t punch as deeply as it could have.

Perhaps Goodbye Christopher Robin’s greatest accomplishment is the terrific central performances. Domhnall Gleeson continues to give exceedingly fine performances strikingly different from each other. His cruel but incompetent General Hux in the new Star Wars Trilogy, the wide-eyed programmer in Ex Machina, the admirable Captain Henry in The Revenant, are delightfully different.. He continues to explore characters unlike those he’s already played and his turn as author A. A. Milne is no exception. As the war-traumatized playwright-turned-children’s book author, Gleeson examines a fractured and cold upper class English gentleman. His path from angered, war-haunted soul, to father and famed author who betrays the affections of his son and must face those decisions, is moving. He isn’t necessarily a sympathetic character. The man is stiff and awkwardly parents the young Christopher Robin. But the struggle to and through the inspiration for “Winnie the Pooh,” and eventual acknowledgments of his own failings, is quite something. As his wife, Daphne, Margot Robbie produces a more calculating and cold parent. Largely, but not entirely unsympathetic, Robbie is convincing. Though no villain, she is a foil to the ‘right thing’ more often than not.

Christopher Robin’s warmth and humanity, then, is drawn very much from Kelly Macdonald’s Olive, the Nanny with whom he shares a deep and abiding bond. Will Tilston’s portrayal of Young Christopher Robin is central to why the film works at all. Tilston’s portrayal of the astute and imaginative Billy Moon is unendingly sympathetic. As the film explores the burden of fame that his father’s writing has wrought upon him, we follow the disillusion and disenchantment he must feel. We see the pain of being used as a pawn by his parents in the fame game and feel the sadness it causes him when he is bullied at school (when the film jumps ahead several years and Alex Lawther (Netflix’s End of the F***ing World) takes the role with equal strength of performance.) The two actors combine to make young Billy the film’s greatest asset, and it may be a missed opportunity that the film did not anchor itself entirely to his viewpoint through the period covered in the film.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Fox’s Goodbye Christopher Robin is beautiful. Lush cinematography by Ben Smithard helps realize director Simon Curtis’ vision of this moment in time, and fills the frame with warm, crisp colors. Flesh tones are natural and fine detail in skin, fabric and hair superb. The frequent sun-dappled forests (and suspicious absence of English rain) present an almost mythical quality to the locations, but they add to the charm and wonderment that helped create the vivid stories of Pooh and friends. This is an excellent presentation.

Audio: 5/5

With a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the dialogue heavy film is supported most effectively during flashback sequences to the war, the bustle of dinner crowds, and the simple elegance of Carter Burwell’s score. This film exists for the quieter moments. The walks in the woods, where nature’s song becomes a part of the adventure, and where the rustling wind is allowed to breathe gently across the sounds design. And it’s winning.

Special Features: 3/5

A good but terribly light collection of special features, the highlight being the commentary by writer/director Simon Curtis and his co-writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce. The promotional featurettes are standard interviews, behind-the-scenes snippets, but only run a couple of minutes each.

Commentary by Simon Curtis and Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Promotional Featurettes

  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Healing a Nation
  • A. Milne
  • Hello Billy Moon
  • Daphne Milne
  • The Story
  • Christopher Robin & His Nanny Olive
  • The Cast

Photo Gallery

Theatrical Trailer

Overall: 3.5/5

I was moved by Goodbye Christopher Robin; absorbed by the relationship between Milne and his son, and struck by the tragedy of their relationship journey. I was moved by the power of the closing moments, built upon the preceding sadness and the performances of genuine excellence by Domhnall Gleeson, young Will Tilston, and Alex Lawther. Where this otherwise wonderful film falls short is in where it doesn’t focus. It misses expressing where England was after World War I, beyond a few lines, to illustrate how needed the whimsy of Winnie’s story was. And, for me, the story would have been served well seeing more through the eyes of Billy Moon. That is where the deepest power of this story can be found.

Published by

Neil Middlemiss

editor,member

11 Comments

  1. Thank you for the excellent review Neil. This was one of my favourite new release films in 2017. Kelly Macdonald was particularly impressive and bought great warmth to her role. I realise that there are some historical inaccuracies but this was first rate entertainment. I hope it finds a large and appreciative audience on home cinema.

  2. This film was a "miss" for Peg and I.

    We wanted more of the story of the creation of the Pooh universe. This could have included all the material about the Milne's family situation and the nanny. But we found the inclusion of the PTSD storyline mostly irrelevant and maudlin.

    We DID find the character of Christopher Robin's mother to be wholly unsympathetic. Why DID she disappear for weeks on end? If AA Milne admits to CR at the end that his happiest times in his life were those few days when they were (forced) together…why, oh why, wouldn't he have simply spent more time together with his son? And we thought the ending of the film was horribly rushed. After the receipt of the telegram, AA Milne goes to tell the sympathetic nanny but then the big reveal comes but just minutes later. There were some definite pacing issues.

    So much potential. LOVED the marketing issues of the Pooh toys, etc. after the popular response to the works. The issue of CR's sudden fame and disruption of the little bit of family life they had should have been more of the center of the tale. I just thought too much effort was spent on AA's PTSD issues.

  3. Mike Frezon

    This film was a "miss" for Peg and I.

    We wanted more of the story of the creation of the Pooh universe. This could have included all the material about the Milne's family situation and the nanny. But we found the inclusion of the PTSD storyline mostly irrelevant and maudlin.

    We DID find the character of Christopher Robin's mother to be wholly unsympathetic. Why DID she disappear for weeks on end? If AA Milne admits to CR at the end that his happiest times in his life were those few days when they were (forced) together…why, oh why, wouldn't he have simply spent more time together with his son? And we thought the ending of the film was horribly rushed. After the receipt of the telegram, AA Milne goes to tell the sympathetic nanny but then the big reveal comes but just minutes later. There were some definite pacing issues.

    So much potential. LOVED the marketing issues of the Pooh toys, etc. after the popular response to the works. The issue of CR's sudden fame and disruption of the little bit of family life they had should have been more of the center of the tale. I just thought too much effort was spent on AA's PTSD issues.

    In the commentary, the director explains that parents didn't "parent" like they do now back in Milne's day, so it was common for nannies to do the heavy lifting while the parents hob-nobbed.

    I also wasn't wild about the movie, mainly because it bit off more than it could chew. It attempts too many storylines in its running time, so all suffer and seem superficial…

  4. Colin Jacobson

    I also wasn't wild about the movie, mainly because it bit off more than it could chew. It attempts too many storylines in its running time, so all suffer and seem superficial…

    +1 That's a huge part of why I think the film would have been much better without the PTSD arc. It didn't fit, it didn't add much to the rest of the story and would've given the rest of the elements a chance to breathe. It also was a bit of a downer in a story that should have been more uplifting/fun (in my opinion).

  5. Mike Frezon

    +1 That's a huge part of why I think the film would have been much better without the PTSD arc. It didn't fit, it didn't add much to the rest of the story and would've given the rest of the elements a chance to breathe. It also was a bit of a downer in a story that should have been more uplifting/fun (in my opinion).

    As I see it, "GCR" had 3 major narrative arcs:

    -The Milne family
    -Writing "Pooh"
    -Dealing with the success of "Pooh"

    That ignores to some degree "older Billy", which is another story thread, but not one that gets a ton of attention.

    Any of these could've sustained a full movie. We could've had 2 hours of Milne's history or 2 hours of the genesis/development of Pooh or 2 hours of dynamics related to its success.

    Instead, "GCR" packed in all 3 and gave none of them room to grow. It's not a bad film but it simply feels incomplete and rushed…

  6. Colin Jacobson

    As I see it, "GCR" had 3 major narrative arcs:

    -The Milne family
    -Writing "Pooh"
    -Dealing with the success of "Pooh"

    That ignores to some degree "older Billy", which is another story thread, but not one that gets a ton of attention.

    Any of these could've sustained a full movie. We could've had 2 hours of Milne's history or 2 hours of the genesis/development of Pooh or 2 hours of dynamics related to its success.

    Instead, "GCR" packed in all 3 and gave none of them room to grow. It's not a bad film but it simply feels incomplete and rushed…

    Maybe….But real life usually has lots of things going on at the same time. We'll agree to disagree.

    On another topic, do you have a review up for Three Billboards?

  7. benbess

    Maybe….But real life usually has lots of things going on at the same time. We'll agree to disagree.

    On another topic, do you have a review up for Three Billboards?

    Nope! I'll review it when Fox sends me the 4K in a few weeks! 🙂

  8. Colin Jacobson

    Instead, "GCR" packed in all 3 and gave none of them room to grow. It's not a bad film but it simply feels incomplete and rushed…

    I'm not sure it needed to be much longer than it is now (there are no deleted scenes here, thus no way to tell whether they would have made a difference), and there may have been legal limitations to how much actual Pooh-related material they could use. For a movie that was knowingly conceived and executed from the ground up under those circumstances, I think they could have done a lot, lot worse.

  9. Colin Jacobson

    Instead, "GCR" packed in all 3 and gave none of them room to grow. It's not a bad film but it simply feels incomplete and rushed…

    I'm not sure it needed to be much longer than it is now (there are no deleted scenes here, thus no way to tell whether they would have made a difference), and there may have been legal limitations to how much actual Pooh-related material they could use. For a movie that was knowingly conceived and executed from the ground up under those circumstances, I think they could have done a lot, lot worse.

  10. MatthewA

    I'm not sure it needed to be much longer than it is now (there are no deleted scenes here, thus no way to tell whether they would have made a difference), and there may have been legal limitations to how much actual Pooh-related material they could use. For a movie that was knowingly conceived and executed from the ground up under those circumstances, I think they could have done a lot, lot worse.

    Sure – it could definitely be worse. While I didn't really like it, I also didn't think it was bad.

    I just think they should've narrowed the focus some – it casts too broad a net…

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