Goodbye Christopher Robin

Year: 2017
Director: Simon Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Will Tiltson, Alex Lawther. 

WRITTEN BY RHYS BOWEN JONES

Winnie The Pooh, I’m sure, is a staple of almost everyone’s childhood post-1924. Everyone knows Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore. Everyone knows Christopher Robin. Finding successes as books, TV shows, and films, Winnie The Pooh is as famous a character as you’ll find in popular culture. To explore the characters’ inception is to explore deep into the childhood of everyone watching, which is what Simon Curtis set out to do with ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’; the untold story of Winnie The Pooh. A behind the scenes look at how the character came to be and what happened next. ‘Goodbye’ provides interesting insights into AA Milne and his creation, but sadly falls short as the film reaches its climax.

Domnhall Gleeson stars as AA Milne, the creator of Winnie The Pooh, and the film follows his life with his wife, Daphne (Robbie) and child, Christopher Robin (Tiltson). Milne is struggling with writers block and hasn’t had a success in a long while, thus he and his family move out of London to the country in order to focus on his next project, a treatise against war. There, Milne spends more time with his now 5-year-old child, and his child’s imagination with his toys is the spark he needs to write Winnie The Pooh, starring his own son. What follows is a look into a life suddenly thrown into fame and stardom as Winnie The Pooh becomes a phenomenon, and the film tackles how well the Milne family respond to new found fame.

Beginning with the positives, I found the performances to be good across the board. Gleeson is reliable if unspectacular in a very softly spoken role. He isn’t given too much heavy lifting to do, but he sells the fish-out-of-water role well as he is forced to be a father more than he ever had been before. Robbie arguably places too much faith in her supremely posh London accent but manages to still portray a conflicted character who desires the fame she has been given potentially more than she desires her own family. The stars of the film are, by a distance, Kelly Macdonald and Will Tiltson, playing Olive (Christopher’s nanny) and Christopher himself respectively.

It stands to reason that these two characters are the most well-realised as they are the two human characters in the Winnie The Pooh series itself. I found Macdonald to be particularly captivating as a Nanny out of her depth, having to be a mother and father to a child that isn’t hers despite wanting a family of her own. Balancing looking after Christopher with effectively being Milne’s personal assistant, and family chef is sure to be difficult, and the strain on Olive’s face becomes more and more apparent as the film progresses. In spending so much time with Christopher, he becomes overly attached, which presents another problem onto her ever-growing list of them.

Will Tiltson, meanwhile, is impossibly adorable as Christopher Robin. Trying to find time to just be a kid among the hullabaloo of paparazzi and visits to New York would be a challenge to anyone, and Tiltson plays this so impressively. When Christopher simply wants to spend time running around the forest near his house with his Dad and his Nanny, Tiltson shines. He has that wide-eyed enthusiasm that comes with having your own, enormous playground, but the more fame becomes a reality to him, the less freedom he has, and his personal playground becomes a genuine tourist and paparazzi spot. ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ is, above anything, a story about a lost childhood. Simon Curtis found a child actor able to convey happiness and loss at the drop of a hat. One scene that stands out is his joy at Nanny reading him a bedtime story, that quickly snaps into sadness as she tells him she’s going away for a while. When Olive and Christopher are on screen, the film is at its best.

When the film works as a somewhat origin story, it works really well. It builds its characters well, establishes life changes effectively, and had me mostly engrossed. When the film has a time jump and Will Tiltson leaves us to be replaced by Alex Lawther as an 18-year-old Christopher Robin, the film loses something. Whether down to Lawther not being as convincing an actor as Tiltson was, or the story simply being less interesting, ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ loses its way.

As Christopher grows up, it becomes apparent that the fame he had as a child had a deep impact on him as a person. Christopher struggled through boarding school as he was bullied for being “that boy from that children’s book,” he laments the childhood he so desired. With better execution, this could have been an emotional knockout, particularly in a late scene where Milne and Christopher argue heatedly about Christopher’s youth and how Milne took it from him. On paper, it’s a powerful scene, but in reality, it’s rushed. Spending so much time on the childhood itself and so little on its effect later in life doesn’t allow the emotion to truly develop.

It’s a real shame. The pieces are all there for ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ to work. It has the set up, but it doesn’t have the execution. It has the ensemble, but only two of them truly shine. It should have packed an emotional punch, but it didn’t. I can imagine seeing this film on a Sunday afternoon on BBC, early in its Christmas schedule. It’s watchable and mostly entertaining, it just doesn’t go that extra mile to make it work. ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ almost worked. Almost.

RHYS’ RATING: 6.2 OUT OF 10

 

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Watch This Space: August 28th – September 3rd

This week we’re excited to re-launch our weekly feature – Watch This Space. Every Monday we will be recommending films that are on TV that week, films playing at the cinema, and also remind you of those brilliant films hiding on streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and possibly in your own collection.

In Cinemas

Rough Night: This female-led comedy finally released in the UK last Friday, with most territories getting it in June and July. You can read Fiona’s review here, in which she calls it “an enjoyable night at the cinema“.

Logan Lucky: Can Jimmy Logan shake his family’s bad luck and pull off a $14 million heist? Corey shares his thought’s in a brand new review coming later today. We’ll update this article with a link when it’s up.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (3D Special): Arnie is back! ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ has been digitally enhanced and for one day only will be screening in 3D in cinemas across the UK. The film originally released in cinemas in 1991 and is back for old fans and new to enjoy on the big screen. We’ll have a special review up later this week!

On TV

Monday

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994): Tune in to this British rom-com classic from the 90s for sharp-scripted silliness from Richard Curtis. Yes – the film is centred around bumbling, floppy-haired Hugh Grant, but it’s the eccentric ensemble that make this film both hilarious and heartfelt. If you’ve not seen it before, where have you been? If you have seen it before – cheer yourself up by surrounding yourself with a familiar group of friends and letting it wash over you like a warm bath. Tune into this classic on Film4 at 9pm. 

Footloose (1984): Kick off those Sunday shoes and go crazy for this 80s classic with a toe-tapping soundtrack and some eye-watering fashion choices. Kevin Bacon makes an appealing central character, backed up by a supporting cast that includes early Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Penn. John Lithgow is the standout as the preacher who has declared a Southern town to be a “no-dance” zone and if you think the rebellious teenagers are going to take that lying down, then you’re mistaken! Brighten up your life with this cheesy feel-good caper. 5Star thinks you’ll love it so much that they’re playing it twice, the first beginning at 7pm, and the second straight after at 8:20pm.

Tuesday 

Shaun of the Dead (2004):  Edgar Wright’s debut feature and first entry to his Cornetto trilogy – ‘Shaun of the Dead’, stars the hilarious duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. ‘Shaun’ simultaneously pays homage to and parodies the ‘of the Dead’ films from the late George A. Romero in a way that is both exciting and easy on the eye. It’s truly a must-see, and you can catch it on ITV2 at 9:00pm.

Snakes on a Plane (2006): Samuel L. Jackson says enough is enough, he’s had it with the “MOTHERFUCKING SNAKES ON THIS MOTHERFUCKING PLANE”.. Need I say more? Okay, I will.. David R. Ellis’ ‘Snakes on a Plane’ gained considerable hype before the film released in cinemas 11 years ago, and despite how quickly that hype died down once it hit cinemas, I challenge you to find anyone who doesn’t know THAT line from the film. You can swear your heart out with Jackson from 9pm on Sky1.

Wednesday

About Time (2013): Combining a romantic comedy with some light science-fiction may be a somewhat bizarre mix, but Richard Curtis’ ‘About Time’ is, for my money, one of the finest romcoms of the last decade. With winning performances from the whole cast, a great sense of humour, bags full of heart, and a very fun time travel twist, it’s hard not to fall in love with the film from the very first scene. Fair warning though, Domnhall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams will ruin your base expectations of boyfriends and girlfriends for life. You can catch ‘About Time’ on Film4 at 6:40pm

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): This undervalued and overlooked origin story within the MCU has suffered from being overshadowed by its sequels, particularly ‘The Winter Soldier’. In my opinion, The First Avenger is the superior film. With its World War Two setting, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter and some great CGI (the wimpyfying of Chris Evans is fantastic) – ‘The First Avenger’ is one of the highlights of the MCU. If the rumours about the upcoming Infinity War are true, perhaps you should take the chance now to remind yourself of Cap’s shining greatness before shizz gets real dark. The action begins 9pm on Film4! 

Thursday

Superman (1978): You’ll believe a man can fly all over again. Richard Donnor directs the original comic-book adaptation- 1978’s ‘Superman: The Movie’. In a time before the superhero genre churned out by the book, CGI dazzling and star-studded movies year after year, travel back to more innocent, more family-friendly era with Christopher Reeve as the greatest Man Of Steel ever. A soaring soundtrack by John Williams and a wonderful cast and story help bring Superman to life in one of the most iconic, original and memorable super-hero films you all need to see. You’ll want to switch to ITV4 at 4pm to see Reeve’s in action! 

Predator (1987): You can see how great Arnold Schwarzenegger is as an action and comedy star when you remember one year after shooting up the jungle in ‘Predator’, he was playing simple-minded Julius opposite Danny DeVito in ‘Twins’. But I digress. No family-friendly comedy here. It’s just balls to the wall action and suspense to the highest level when Arnie and his tobacco chewing, machine gun toting, foul-mouthed squad turn from hunter to hunted, going up against the alien life-form known as The Predator. With direction from John McTiernan, special effects from Stan Winston and support from the likes of Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura and the late Sonny Landham, this is classic Schwarzenegger – when you’ve finished watching, don’t forget to “GET TO THE CHOPPA!”. Get in on the action on Film4 starting at 10:45pm

Friday

Inception (2010): This one is a no brainer… It’s on TV this week, therefore you need to watch it! Christopher Nolan assembles an impressive cast, which includes the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Marion Cotillard, and if that line-up alone doesn’t sell it then you’re still in for a treat. Nolan keeps your full attention for the entirety of the film’s 2 and a half hour runtime, as we venture from dream to dream and watch DiCaprio and his team attempt to plant an idea in the mind of a CEO by using their dream-sharing technology. 

Role Models (2010): Having recently watched this film again, I can whole-heartily say that this film is still as funny as it was 7 years ago. Paul Rudd and Sean William-Scott are sentenced to community service and are sent to ‘Sturdy Wings’, an organisation that pairs children with adults to help build friendships. Rudd and Scott meet their matches when paired with Augie (a LARPing geek) and Ronnie (a foul-mouthed youngster), and hilarity ensues. The fun takes place over on 5Star at 11:15pm.

Hiding Online / In Our Collection

Kill Bill – Vol I and II (2003, 2004): Do yourself a favour and watch Tarantino’s masterpieces, featuring one of cinema’s greatest creations – Uma Thurman’s The Bride. The first is the all-action, kung fu heavy whirlwind featuring mind-blowing set pieces such as the House of Blue Leaves. The second is a different beast, exploring The Bride’s relationship with the titular Bill, a tour de force by David Carradine. Choosing which is better out of the two is a Sophie’s Choice for me. Do yourself a favour and watch both. Both films arrive on Netflix September 1st

Dead Poets Society (1989): O Captain My Captain. A tender central performance by Robin Williams can get a little schmaltzy at times, but this coming-of-age poetic film is worth your time for some classic lines and heart-warming scenes. The ensemble cast of High School students is a “who’s who” of current film and TV, Ethan Hawke, House’s Robert Sean Leonard and The Good Wife’s Josh Charles all got their breakthroughs here. As an English teacher, I have to say I aspire to the level of inspiration William’s Mr Keating brings to his lessons in literature and life. ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ will arrive on Netflix September 1st. 

Bronson (2008): Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylistic masterpiece, ‘Bronson’, is a biopic that explores the anarchic life of notorious British criminal Charles Bronson, played emphatically by the sublime Tom Hardy. Whilst it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, I can’t recommend it enough. Give it a go if you think you’re hard enough.

Deep Blue Sea (1999): Whilst no other shark movie can really hold a candle to the mighty ‘Jaws’, ‘Deep Blue Sea’ is one of the better ones out there. It’s ludicrous of course, but that is exactly what you should expect and want out of a movie about harvesting the brains of DNA-altered sharks to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. It has Samuel L. Jackson, terrible CGI sharks and plenty of gruesome deaths, what more could you want really?! ‘Deep Blue Sea’ is heading to Netlfix on Friday! 

A huge thank you to contributors this week: Fiona Underhill, Chris Gelderd, Sarah Buddery, Rhys Bowen Jones, and Corey Hughes.