Thursday, October 12, 2017
Fox Searchlight Film Review - Goodbye Christopher Robin
London playwright Alan A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) suffered from a serious case of shell-shock known today as PSTD when he returned to England from The Great War. Loud noises, corks popping, bright lights and especially bees would bring him back to the Western Front in a trench at the Somme seeing men's lifeless bodies piled up with files spawned from maggots buzzing around. During one of his episodes his illustrator friend Ernest Shepard (Stephen Campbell Moore) who was at Passchendaele during the war commented that for him it's his motorcycle backfiring. Shepard then summed up that they both would be fine they just need to get things right up here pointing to his temple.
The English people were collectively down after the war. A generation of first sons lost leaving a shortage of marriage options with many who returned prone to sudden fits of anger. Milne had to get out of the city which his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) who craves fast pace action opposed remarking that a Westend playwright needs to be in London. Soon after their arrival in Sussex Christopher Robin (Will Tilston) their largely ignored 8-year-old son arrives. His mother wanted a girl telling anyone who would listen that the birth almost killed her. Milne had remote contact with the child leaving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) to be the child's default parent.
Director Simon Curtis takes his time with the material introducing the iconic toys slowly with each member of the family playing their part in providing the names. Pooh was initially directed at another animal entirely, Daphne who did most of the playful voicing came up with Kanga and Roo while Alan Milne the author himself felt that Eeyore would be a good name for donkey. A bear that Billy saw in the Zoo named Winne short for it's birthplace Winnipeg became the titular character Winnie the Pooh.
Cinematographer Ben Smithard is greatly responsible for bring the story to life. From the opening shot light and shadow play a major role displaying the mythical Hundred Acre 100 Wood. Including the wooden footbridge across River Medway where Smithard lens captures the energy of each game of Poohsticks flowing downstream below. Natural light also cuts into interior scenes at the country house through windowpanes. At nighttime it's the moonlight that lights the actors as it hovers about the quiet Sussex countryside.
Goodbye Christopher Robin is a fitting backstory for characters that are universally known and loved. The reveal here is the strain that the books put on Milne son who had to bore the mantle of Christopher Robin. As a child he was a show pony trotted out to events to sell product. By his teens ridiculed and bullied then as a young man seeking anonymity headed off to the front for the Second World war as Private Milne. It's a sweet tale that children of all ages will find nuggets that make them smile making it a film that I can recommend.
*** Out of 4.
Goodbye Christopher Robin | Simon Curtis | UK | 2017 | 107 Minutes.
Tags: The Great War, London, PTSB, Sussex, Toy Bear, Ashdown Forest, Vanity Fair, Book Signing, New York, London Zoo.