Christopher Robin, Winnie-The-Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, and the other residents of the Hundred Acre Wood are arguably the most beloved figures in children's literature. "Goodbye Christopher Robin," from director Simon Curtis, tells the not-so-lighthearted story of how these iconic creatures came to be.
"Goodbye Christopher Robin" opens in post-WWII England, where author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie) reside in an idyllic countryside home. The peaceful scene is soon interrupted by the delivery of a telegram -- a sure sign of tragedy.
The film then pans to a series of flashbacks, where we learn that Milne, living in London with his wife, struggles with severe post-traumatic stress disorder; he's transported back to the trenches of France by the sound of a balloon popping. Unsuccessfully hoping to pull her husband out of his depression, Daphne gives birth to a child, Christopher Robin, or as he's nicknamed, Billy Moon.
Neglected by his parents, dimpled, imaginative Billy is primarily cared for by his beloved Scottish nanny, "Nou" (who, we later learn, inspired Milne's poem Vespers). Milne, unable to connect with his child and struggling to write, transports his family to the woods of East Sussex. It's there that Billy's fantastical relationship with his toys -- a stuffed bear, donkey, and pig -- inspire Milne's "Winnie-The-Pooh" books. The books become an overnight sensation, and Billy, the "real Christopher Robin," an unwitting 6-year-old celebrity.
If only the story ended there.
Against Nou's counsel, the Milne parents soon allow their son to become an easily-marketable commodity. From countless book signings, newspaper and telephone interviews to flashing lights, Billy is all but robbed of the peaceful childhood he once knew. The resentment he carries into his adult life as a result of this trauma is all-too palpable.
Beautifully acted, the film is sprinkled with plenty of heartwarming scenes of childhood innocence, from Billy pulling on his rainboots and tramping through the woods, stuffed bear in hand, to kneeling by his beside to pray. Such scenes are starkly contrasted, however, by those that all-too-well depict the burdens that inevitably come with adulthood. Milne is a stone-faced, emotionally unavailable shell of a man; his wife a self-absorbed, sometimes cruel, socialite.
Still, the film attempts to drive home the idea that reconciliation -- albeit stiff and begrudging-- is possible, even for the most broken of families.
Ultimately, "Goodbye Christopher Robin" is an emotionally powerful cautionary tale that calls to mind Matthew 1:26: "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"
"Goodbye Christopher Robin" is rated PG. The film hits theaters nationwide October 13.