Slow & Drab: Goodbye Christopher Robin

This engaging film is suffocated by bland storytelling that files off the edges of its most provocative material.

By Daniel Lima

It is always disheartening to see a thought-provoking, affecting film buried under staid, boring direction. Such is the case with Goodbye Christopher Robin, a movie that flirts with the notion of being something greater than a by-the-numbers biopic, but ultimately plays it frustratingly safe.

Goodbye Christopher Robin is the origin story of Winnie the Pooh, told by charting the relationship between author A. A. Milne and his son, Christopher Robin. Domhall Gleason is a compelling lead, and Milne’s haunting experiences in World War 1 both inspire him to connect with his son, and create a barrier between them.

It is a precarious balancing act, and the film operates at its best while maintaining it. There is a rich subtext about how the mistakes of the previous generation, despite their best efforts, will wreak havoc on the next. As the father-son relationship blossoms, the camera becomes more fluid and animated, following the duo on their adventures into the woods as if it were excited to be included.

One scene transitions abruptly from a peaceful stroll through the woods to an intense flashback, the tranquility of the moment shattered by sins of the past. It is here where Goodbye Christopher Robin is at its most invigorating, exploring how innocence is lost and whether it could ever possibly be regained. Alas, this complex thematic material is drowned out the workman-like stiffness with which the narrative is presented.

The film seems more interested in chronicling the life of Milne and his family than telling a story; we get a roll call of Pooh and his friends like they’re the Avengers, characters superfluous to the plot are given ample amounts of screentime, the last ten minutes are a rebuke of every second leading up to the climax.

It is slow, drab, and mawkish, all in an attempt to make a crowd-pleasing awards contender out of a movie in which the man who wrote Winnie the Pooh chokeslams a child to the ground in a PTSD-induced panic.

Which is to say, what’s the point?

Buried inside Goodbye Christopher Robin is a thoughtful rumination war, peace, and generational conflict, with a genuinely sweet father-son bond as the foundation.

This engaging film is suffocated by bland storytelling that files off the edges of its most provocative material. What a shame that a film about a man with such imagination would be so uninspired.