It might be ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin,’ but hello to the actor who plays him

Will Tilston is this biopic's greatest delight

Just mentioning the name Winnie the Pooh, one cannot help but start to hum the familiar song that accompanies Pooh Bear on the start of his many adventures. After being around for nearly a century — since 1926 to be exact — it is hard to find a college student or parent of one who has not heard of the honey-loving guy. However, in director Simon Curtis’sGoodbye Christopher Robin,” fans of one of childhood’s most beloved storybook characters get to witness his surprising beginnings.

“Goodbye Christopher Robin” tells the story of author Alan Milne, played by Domhnall Gleeson, and his son Christopher Robin, played by Will Tilston, for whom he and his collection of stuffed toys the books are based. The biopic explores Milne as he struggles with post-traumatic stress, following his time in World War I. In order to escape his stress, he decides to move himself and his family into the quieter countryside so he can focus on what he does best: writing. 


Upon realizing that his struggles with PTSD did not end with a move, Milne begins to spend more time with his son, who is normally referred to as Billy Moon and largely taken care of by his nanny Olive, played by Kelly Macdonald. It is through his son’s imagination and stuffed bear that ideas for his best-selling book take root, but he learns the that publication of he and his son’s treasured playtime stories may not garner Christopher Robin the same sort of love and appreciation it afforded his father.

The story is a fascinating exposé into the lives of the real people behind the children’s story, played by actors that know how to explore its emotional depths honestly. It is no surprise that Gleeson performs spectacularly as his budding film portfolio would suggest, but Tilston, who plays his son, is a magical surprise. 

For Christopher Robin, life was not always a joyous adventure in the hundred acre wood. Largely raised by his nanny and rarely seen by Milne or his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), his concepts of love and caring were skewed, especially after Olive departs for a two-week period. To portray this for any actor is a challenge, and for a child more so, but Tilston delights from start to finish. 

It is as though watching him, he actually lived through this dramatic home life, with a father who repeatedly takes out his episodes on him and a mother who is too busy living her own life to be concerned with that of another. He certainly brings an emotional weight the film needs in order to succeed. 

Being a darker story touching on PTSD and the aftermath of thrusting a child into the spotlight of a story he never wanted to be a part of, it can feel almost unnecessarily heavy for long periods of time. Then, when it comes time for the film’s emotional climax, it feels empty, as though the darkness that came before it washed out the nice ending. 


The best parts of this film are the moments shared between Gleeson and Tilston. The dynamic the two have is captivating, constantly playing off the other and having to react suddenly during triggering moments for Milne. At the films conclusion, there will not be a dry eye in the audience after seeing the father-son duo together.

What makes the movie great is its on-screen chemistry. Seeing the young Christopher Robin and his father is a delight, even if the circumstances that made them famous are less so. What keeps this film from being a hit is its lack of heart throughout and its balancing act between Gleeson and Tilston’s characters. Do not let this fool you, though. Tissues are still required for seeing this film.

Overall score: 3.5/5

“Goodbye Christopher Robin” is rated PG and in theaters now.


Reach the reporter at balnero13@gmail.com or follow @BaldnerOwen on Twitter.

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