Biopics about authors are often dry and tedious, and biopics about unpleasant writers are almost always unenjoyable. That’s the problem with “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” the story of famous author A.A. Milne — he was a man who was as unlikable as they come. The film portrays the relationship between Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher (Will Tilston), but the bond between the two was so cold and detached in real life that instead of a sense of wonderment and joy, you’ll leave the theater with a feeling of sour melancholy.
Milne wasn’t a warm nor loving figure, and he and his ego-driven wife exploited their son for their own gain. Instead of giving their own child the devotion and support he needed, they sold out his childhood for fame and glory. Get ready to have your own illusions shattered with this feel-bad drama.
The film tries to find a balance between war and peace as Milne returns from the Western Front a damaged man, suffering from savage flashbacks and prone to brief outbursts of violence. He shows little affection towards his precocious, nanny-raised son and his truly awful socialite wife (Margot Robbie). Wanting to escape their stressful city life, the Milnes move to the English countryside so A.A. can write and relax. It’s here where the idea for the Hundred Acre Wood is born, an imaginative place where Milne shares his child’s playtime with the world in his series of Winnie the Pooh stories. By doing so, he turns his son into an involuntary celebrity. The film touches far too briefly on the harsh emotional child abuse suffered by Christopher and the psychological costs of war due to post traumatic stress suffered by his father.
As a whole, the film is manipulative and tries to pull on the audience’s heartstrings a little too often, making the story seem less credible. Even worse is Tilston, the most irritating child actor since Neel Sethi in 2016’s “The Jungle Book.” It didn’t take long for me to begin to cringe as he’d recite his lines with a dimple-cheeked gap-toothed close-up.
“Goodbye Christopher Robin” is contrived and boring and filled with unpleasant people. Worst of all, this film accomplished the most unimaginable feat of all: it actually made me feel bad about liking “Winnie the Pooh.”