A.A. Milne, a poet, playwright and writer, rose to a new level of fame when the beloved series of Winnie the Pooh books were born, taking, reluctantly, with him the real Christopher Robin, his son, the real inspiration behind the worldwide phenomenon which has lasted for many years after its creation. Christopher Robin may have been real but he was also the victim of bad parenting for monetary gain, a child whose cherished Father and Son time playing in the woods was cruelly robbed from him to share with the world as he became his Father’s literary muse and helping him through his PTSD gained through the atrocities of World War I.
After returning home to London from World War I, A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) suffers at the hands of post-traumatic stress disorder; his writing becomes non-existent, whilst his wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie) pranced amongst the hoe-poly of society. The loud noises and bright lights, of the city, along with the writers block become too much for Milne to cope, Milne takes the decision to up-sticks and move to Sussex for the peace and tranquillity of the Sussex countryside with an excitable Christopher Robin aka Billy Moon (Will Tilston) (the Milne’s nickname for their son) and the less than happy Daphne.
With nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) now firmly part of the household, and more of a mother towards Christopher, Milne still struggles with the pen, but when Daphne takes off to London vowing not to return until he has written something Milne finally starts to bond with his son as they take long walks and play amongst the trees in Ashdown Forest. A glimmer of warmth starts to melt the icy interior of Gleeson’s Milne in these precious moments amongst the idyllic backdrop of the Sussex countryside, having his son request he write a book for him, unaware of the chaos it will eventually bring, watching his son play with his toys, the basis of the Winnie the Pooh starts to take shape.
Primarily a moving yet frustrating Father and Son tale, as the title suggests its very foundation lays on a child’s loss of his own identity and how he was exploited by his own parents to increase their wealth via merchandising and the like. Through a whirlwind timeline, Christopher is thrust into the limelight as his father’s book becomes a worldwide bestseller, and fans become aware he was the real Christopher, unable to understand the fuss, this tormented child just wanted to be just plain old Christopher Robin again.
If there is any weakness in the plot it comes from thinly written story of Margot Robbie’s Daphne, whilst she clearly loves her son in her own way, this cold, hearted self-absorbed woman only seems to pop up when needed to bulk out the callous way in which the Milne’s gained from their son, if they wanted to make her the villain in this peace they completed their mission.
Gleeson finally has a platform to shine in his portrayal of Milne, with an air of the good old British stiff-upper-lip; the cracks start to break through his pores as he seems to be lead by all those around him including his wife being the first to jump at the chance to make money out her son. Deep with within his conscious, he knows what they are doing to their child but seems helpless to do anything about it. Newcomer Tilston has all the emotional innocence of a child, everything about his performance from his innocence to his frustration comes so naturally and a large amount of the emotional success of the tone lies effortlessly on his soldiers.
Tenderly affecting the story takes an insightful and beautifully crafted journey to the man behind Pooh and the son whose childhood suffered at the hands of fame where he really did have to say Goodbye to the Christopher Robin he once was.
Goodbye Christopher Robin is out in cinemas September 29