As one might expect of a movie that starts out with Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) receiving news of their son’s death, Goodbye Christopher Robin launches gorgeous visuals and deafening English sadness like the finest sentimentality canon in the Royal Navy. Told mostly via flashback—in the sun-dappled forests of 1920s East Sussex—we’re led through a collection of agreed-upon inspirations for Milne’s beloved children’s stories and the bittersweetness of the Milnes’ marriage, accompanied by the wise-child witticisms of the dimpled Christopher Robin (Will Tilston) and the good-hearted doormat-isms of his saintly nanny (Kelly Macdonald).
It’d be enough to break your heart—if any of it felt real. Instead, Goodbye Christopher Robin’s themes (the trauma of war, the loss of innocence, the practice of trying to cheer up an extremely depressed father) are seen only under a very thick glass of beatific varnish. I’m not sure any of the meaning behind this story—which really happened, and which really did make the real Christopher Robin Milne miserable—makes it through.