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November 28, 2018

Goodbye, Christopher Robin (2017) --- "Inspired By A True Story, Watch A Child’s Imagination Become A Worldwide Bestseller."

Plot Summary
After leaving London for the English countryside, writer A.A. Milne starts to spin fanciful yarns about his son's growing collection of stuffed animals. These stories form the basis for "Winnie-the-Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner," published respectively in 1926 and 1928. Milne and his family soon become swept up in the instant success of the books, while the enchanting tales bring hope and comfort to the rest of postwar England. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     The first Winnie the Pooh story by A.A. Milne was published in 1926, bringing hope and comfort to people around the world after the devastation that was World War 1, and subsequently becoming one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. With charming characters and stories that exemplify childhood innocence, Winnie the Pooh is one of the rare children’s books that can enchant people of all ages. As a child, I grew up reading the wonderful stories of Winnie the Pooh and that statement is still true today. So when I heard they were making a bio-drama film about the man behind the stories, I knew that I had to see the film and I was not disappointed.

     There are films that we watch in order to escape the real world. Peter Pan (1953) takes us to a land where you never have to grow up, while Mary Poppins (1964) teaches us how to fly with laughter and jump through chalk-painting. But Goodbye Christopher Robin is similar to that of Finding Neverland (2004) and Saving Mr. Banks (2013), in which we see the magical and yet tragic worlds behind some of our most beloved stories. But that does not mean we leave with a sense of melancholy but rather with a renewed sense of hope for life itself. They remind us of what is really important in life, as well as shows how our choices affect those around us, both the good and the bad. In the end, these films teach us to appreciate those who love us and to take a moment to spend time with your loved ones, especially your children. Because there is only so long that people can wait before they move on.
     With Simon Curtis (Woman in Gold; My Week with Marilyn) as director, and writers Frank Cottrell Boyce (The Railway Man) and Simon Vaughan (War & Peace; A Bear Named Winnie) adapting the screenplay, Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) is both reflective and thoughtfully disturbing. But keep in mind that the film is only loosely based off of the real story.
     The dark and troubled world of A.A. Milne was a surprising contrast to the innocent and charming world of Winnie the Pooh. Sure there were happy moments but those moments largely rested with his son and only thinly veiled the true nature of his life. In other words, Goodbye Christopher Robin is not a cute and happy cookie-cutter film nor is it overly dark and joyless film, but rather it lies somewhere in between.
     The story easily blends the trauma A.A. Milne experienced from WWI and the traumatic childhood of Christopher Robin. He witnesses his parents’ fractioning relationship and experiences a life of unhappiness upon becoming a celebrity after his childhood stories become a worldwide hit in his father book, Winnie the Pooh. The material was sensitive and bitterly ironic, and the writing is both intelligent and thoughtfully considerate as it allows time to breathe without losing momentum or cohesion. However, through Christopher’s efforts to get his father to loosen up and the sweet relationship he has with his nanny, that story offers some moments of heart that helps break up some of it's melancholy nature.
     Courtesy of cinematographer Ben Smithard, the visuals are stunning with beautiful cinematography and vibrant hues that gives the film a storybook feel. The settings (David Roger, Tim BlakeKatie Money, and Claire Nia Richards) and costumes (Odile Dicks-Mireaux) are vivid and timeless in that it transports you to the 20’s & 30’s. Composer Carter Burwell uses heavy string work to create a stirring music score of emotion and elegance that help drive the film along.
     The cast performances were strong and relatable. Domhnall Gleeson (Unbroken; The Revenant) as A.A. Milne is talented and he has the rare ability to embody any character he is given, much like a chameleon. Here he portrays a side to the famous author that has not been seen before, we see how his choices affect those around him. How the war affects him, how moving to the countryside affects his wife’s social life, and how the success of the Winnie the Pooh books affect his son. Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad) portrays his wife, Daphne Milne and she is convincing in her portrayal of self-centered aloofness. This is a mother who had a son instead of a daughter and then experienced post-partum depression after giving birth. Although her character seems self-centered and cold, you have to understand that this was normal back then, especially among the social elites. You can sometimes even see some of this aloofness between parents and their kids today. Kelly Macdonald (Merida) was underappreciated as the Nanny Olive, or Nou by C. R. Milne. She provides warmth, charm, and lightheartedness to the story. Her common sense and her simple yet strong love for the boy are invaluable and make us wish he was her son. Will Tilston steals the show as the impossibly adorable and dimpled 8-year-old Christopher Robin, also known as Billy Moon. His relationship with his nanny is heartwarming while the confusing trauma he experiences due to his unwanted celebrity status and parents fractioning relationship is gloomy. Finally, Alex Lawther does well as the 18-year-old Christopher Robin, despite only having a few scenes at the end. Both give a wide range of emotions but Lawther gives a more mature portrayal to Christopher Rabin’s character. He expresses that while he understood why his father published Winnie the Pooh, he was not happy about a private childhood story being made public knowledge.
     Overall, Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) beautifully tells a reflective and thoughtfully disturbing story that unfolds gently in order to leave the memory of Winnie the Pooh as undisturbed as possible. For those who feet cheated because the story is only loosely based on the life of A.A. Milne should give this film a chance. The story provides a nice contrast between A.A. Milne’s world and the world of Winnie the Pooh; one is more realistic to the after-effects of war, while the other is a world of innocence and childhood dreams. The settings, visuals, and costumes give the film a storybook feel that takes you back to the 1920’s. Much like Finding Neverland and Saving Mr. Banks, this film will make you remember what is truly important in life, love, and family, as well as learn how to overcome the bad times in life and enjoy the good. I highly recommend this film.

"We're writing a book and we're having fun."
- Alan Milne

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  8 of 10 star
Worth Buying:  8 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar 
Christopher Robin (2018)
Cross Creek (1983)
Finding Neverland (2004)
Goodbye, Christopher Robin (2017)
The Last Station (2009)
Miss Potter (2006)
Mary Poppins (1964)
Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Nanny McPhee (2006)
Nanny McPhee Returns (2010)
Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin
Paddington (2014)
Paddington 2 (2018)
Peter Rabit (2018)
Pan (2015)
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Winnie the Pooh (2011)

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