A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Goodbye Christopher Robin is a biographical drama about how English author/poet/playwright Alan Alexander (A.A.) Milne went from being a shell-shocked WWI veteran to becoming the creator of Winnie the Pooh. Starring Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie as the Milnes, the movie may appeal to Pooh-loving parents with young children. But the film deals with heavy themes and subject matter (post-traumatic stress, war and peace, wartime death, marital strain, tension between parents and full-time caregivers, etc.) that are too mature for little ones. You'll also see flashbacks to Milne's time in WWI (including scenes of men dead, injured, and dying in trenches, shots whizzing by, etc.), and he shuts down or becomes aggressive during moments when he's triggered and remembers the war. He even lashes out physically (though unintentionally) at his young son. A young boy is bullied by classmates, and kids may be upset by scenes of a young child missing a beloved caretaker. There's also some kissing, drinking, smoking (accurate for the era), and mild language. With a strong sense of melancholy underlining much of what happens, the movie is occasionally heartbreaking and is likely to make sensitive moviegoers cry.
What's the story?
GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is a biographical drama about the famous English author of the Winnie the Pooh books, A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson). Milne is first introduced in 1919, after World War I has ended. Milne is suffering from post-traumatic stress, and his mood and melancholy worry his social-butterfly wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie), who ends up pregnant. After baby Christopher Robin (whom they always call Billy Moon) is born, a full-time, live-in nanny named Olive (Kelly Macdonald) is hired to look after him in the Milnes' London townhouse. As Billy grows into a young boy (played by Will Tilston), Milne feels compelled to leave the city and moves the family to the country, much to Daphne's horror. It's in the country, during an extended time of father-son bonding in the woods, that Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals -- especially his favorite teddy bear -- inspire Milne to write poems (like the famous "Vespers") and, ultimately, the Winnie the Pooh stories. But is Billy ready to be the public face of the fictional boy his father created?
Is it any good?
This sweet, well-acted biopic follows three stories about A.A. Milne: how PTSD turned him into a pacifist, how his marriage nearly fell apart, and how Winnie the Pooh was both a blessing and a curse. Fascinating if slightly uneven, the drama reveals the complicated backstory behind some of the most beloved children's books of all time. Gleeson plays Milne as an earnest, clever artist who's suffering from post-traumatic stress; he's unable to move past his nightmares about the war and his desire to write about the need for global peace. Meanwhile, Robbie's Daphne is a social butterfly who won't stand for "blubbing" and is resentful that Milne is too consumed with his anti-war stance to write something publishable. But the movie's emotional center is Macdonald as Billy's patient, beloved nanny -- and, of course, dimpled little Tilston as the adorable, teddy bear-loving Billy Moon.
The best part of the film is seeing Milne play with Billy Moon and the stuffed animals that directly led to the creation of the legendary adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. The (brief) father-son interaction is full of joy, and little Billy's sweet observations and childhood wisdom make it obvious how much of the stories were inspired by the real Christopher Robin. But as the books become a phenomenon, the fictional bear creates distance between Milne and Billy and eventually leads to years of resentment (not to mention bullying). At times, the well-acted, lovingly shot story doesn't feel completely cohesive, because it's so preoccupied with Milne's triggers and it introduces the distracting issues in the Milnes' marriage. But overall it's a touching look at the unique circumstances that gave birth to Winnie the Pooh and his friends.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how accurate Goodbye Christopher Robin is. How can we know what's true to life and what might have been altered? Why do you think filmmakers might choose to change the events in a fact-based movie?
How is mental illness/PTSD portrayed in the story? How has society's acceptance of PTSD changed since Milne's time?
What do you think about the Milne family relationships? Do you understand why Billy Moon was upset with his father/parents? Were they fair to him?
Why do you think Winnie the Pooh was and is so popular? What makes the appeal so enduring?
- In theaters: October 13, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 23, 2018
- Cast: Margot Robbie, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Macdonald, Will Tilston
- Director: Simon Curtis
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, History
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some bullying, war images and brief language
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