Released: 29th September 2017
Directed By: Simon Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie
Reviewed By: Van Connor
There’s an emotional tug of war taking place at the centre of Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin that you can’t help wrestle with throughout. It’s a tug of war between the cloying and borderline nauseating sentimentality pulsing within it – prominently represented by the beaming face of child actor Will Tilston – and the earnestness of the filmmaking standing before it – personified best by the modern man-of-introspection, Domnhall Gleeson. Spoiler: neither side wins out.
This Finding Neverland remix-of-sorts charts the development of Milne’s iconic creation, Winnie the Pooh, and looks specifically at how his (initially-distant) relationship with son “Billy” came to influence the work. Creating a beloved book is on thing, though, and living with its success is another, as Milne soon finds out when his creation begins to consume not only his life, but his son’s as well – taking the bridge build between them and threatening to drive them apart however.
Worryingly, the latter portion of that plot finds itself squeezed into a somewhat mortifyingly-compressed final fifteen minutes, ensuring Goodbye Christopher Robin – by virtue of being one of the worst-paced movies of the year – feels concerningly tampered-with, the victim of some kind of rewrite that truncated the bulk of its third act into the time needed to knock back a cup of Earl Grey and allow Curtis’ film to pack in some more soft-focus country-gazing.
Gleeson’s unbeatable in this kind of internalised role, and his scenes with Tilston see him genuinely sell the outright charm of it all. That Tilston himself, though, seems to have all the emotional range of an anime kitten on ecstasy proves unfathomably difficult to tolerate with any kind of straight face. It’s very much the same sort of balance between Curtis’ very solid direction and Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan’s screenplay – a stark contrast that never allows you feel at any sort of ease with a tale that demands likeability, and instead delivers what’s mostly a bit of a queasy feeling. And a fifteen minute-long third act.