Goodbye Christopher Robin is a delightful little movie with a strong message to tell about the trappings of fame, but one that it tells subtlety without beating the audience over the head. The Blu-ray release of the movie has a wonderfully detailed and colorful reference-quality transfer, solid audio, and some nice bonus features, which all add up to a release that is Recommended.
There have been lots of pieces of entertainment based on the works of writer A. A. Milne, most notably the many incarnations of Winnie the Pooh, but it's amazing that until Goodbye Christopher Robin came along that no movie has taken the time to examine the life of Milne himself. That finally changes with Director Simon Curtis's latest film, and the wait was worth it. This is a wonderful movie with a lot to say about the price of fame and the regret that can result.
The movie opens with a scene that gives a little too much away about what happens in this story, so I'll refrain from giving details, other than the fact that it is set after the majority of events viewers will see in the film and it hinges on a letter that is delivered to Milne (played by Domhnall Gleeson, best know to American audiences as General Hux from Star Wars). The story then flashes back to the World War I period, where Milne – who even then suffers from "shell shock" (now known as PTSD) – hates the idea of war and speaks out against it. He returns home to London with his wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie), and not long afterward she gives birth to a son, whom they name Christopher Robin, but who grows up with the nickname Billy Moon (Will Tilston).
Noisy London is too loud for the still unsettled Milne, so the family moves out into the much quieter countryside, where the author hopes to be able to write a novel that preaches his anti-war stance. The two parents, while active in their son's life, are also distant from him, and they hire a nanny, Olive (played by Kelly Macdonald), who serves as the primary caregiver – and essentially raises Billy from the time he is a young child. But when writer's block hits Milne, Daphne gets frustrated with him and decides to move back to London until he's writing again. Olive also needs to leave for a period to tend to her sick mother, leaving Milne alone to take care of Billy. After a rough start, father and son start spending a lot of time together – including Milne making up stories with Billy's stuffed animals, which consist of a bear, tiger, donkey, and a little piglet...just in case you hadn't already guessed.
Milne decides to abandon his adult novel for the time being and publish children's stories he's created about the animals. His tales of Winnie the Pooh are an immediate hit, and the already known writer becomes an international sensation. However, kids and parents around the world want to meet the "real" Christopher Robin, so Milne and Daphne start arranging events where their son will appear and talk to crowds – without considering the consequences these actions are having on their only son.
A. A. and Daphne aren't the best of parents in Goodbye Christopher Robin, and in another filmmaker's hands, they could have come across as selfish and fame-hungry (particularly Daphne, who is far more materialistic than her husband). But thankfully Director Simon Curtis understands that human beings are complex and while he's not afraid to show the Milnes' many faults, he also takes time to show that, yes, they both love their child dearly. I really liked the fact that this movie has a message about the cost of success without feeling the need to showcase it in scene after scene. Curtis deals out his message subtlety, and it makes for a more powerful movie.
The last part of this story has a grown Billy Moon (now played by Alex Lawther) trying to forge his own path in life away from his father, which may result in him making many of the same mistakes. Father must come to terms with how his actions have affected his son, and son must try to understand why his father took those actions, to begin with. Curtis is smart enough not to tie any reconciliation between the two men up in a bow, but viewers will leave Goodbye Christopher Robin feeling that father and son did, at the very least, come to an understanding of one another.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Goodbye Christopher Robin says hello on home video with this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD come housed inside an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, along with a slipcover with artwork matching that of the case. The sole insert contains a code for a digital copy of the movie. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front-loaded with trailers for Gifted, Hidden Figures, and Step. The main menu on both disc features a montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
Goodbye Christopher Robin was shot digitally on the Arri Alexa Mini and gets a wonderfully sharp and color transfer onto Blu-ray, shown in the movie's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The movie's color palette is adjusted ever so slightly to give the presentation a "historical" look to it, but it's still very warm and inviting. Details are spectacular, right down to seeing the individual threads in many of the actors' clothes. Black levels, which sometime suffer when Arri digital equipment is used, are deep and inky here. Flesh tones are well defined and consistent throughout the movie. In short, this is one of the best recent transfers from 20th Century Fox I have seen in a while and worthy of getting a reference-quality score. It's quite impressive and one of the highlights of this release.
The featured track on the Blu-ray is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and while I wish I could rave about it the way I did the video quality, there's no shame in just stating the audio – while nothing spectacular – is certainly solid and serves the purposes of the presentation. Dialogue is crisp and clear and primarily front and center throughout the movie. There are more ambient surround noises and a feeling of immersion than one would probably expect from a title such as this one, as scenes – particularly those set outdoors – are often enhanced with subtle surrounding noises. The soundtrack from composer Carter Burwell also is pleasantly mixed and never is obtrusive or interferes with the spoken word. All in all, a well-done audio presentation.
In addition to the lossless English track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 English Descriptive Audio track is also an option, as are Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks Spanish, French, Czech, Hindi, Urdu, Hungarian, Polish, Thai, and Turkish. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, French, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese.
Commentary by Simon Curtis and Frank Cottrell-Boyce – The director and writer of the movie team up for this informative commentary track. If there's a small complaint to be had here, it's that the two gentleman (particularly Curtis) spends a little too much time talking about plot points that viewers will already be familiar with, but there's plenty of behind-the-scenes info and additional history about A. A. Milne to be discovered here as well.
A Walk in the Woods (HD 2:34) – All of the featurettes on this release are the short, standard type that you'll find on most Blu-ray titles. This one talks about A. A. Milne's desire to get out of the city of London and find a more peaceful, solitude place to live. All the featurettes include comments from Director Simon Curtis, as well as members of the cast, crew, and others associated with covering Milne's life and history.
Healing a Nation (HD 2:11) – This featurette covers how Milne's books helped England...and eventually the world...recover from the horrors of two World Wars.
A. A. Milne (HD 2:01) – Domhnall Gleeson talks about taking on the role of the famous writer.
Hello Billy Moon (HD 2:32) – A discussion of the actor (Will Tilston) who plays the younger version of Billy Moon (a.k.a. Christopher Robin) in the movie.
Daphne Milne (HD 2:17) – Margot Robbie talks about playing the wife of A. A. Milne in the movie.
The Story (HD 2:24) – As the title suggests, this featurette gives a brief synopsis of the film's storyline.
Christopher Robin & His Nanny Olive (HD 3:18) – This featurette covers the close relationship between young Billy Moon and his nanny (played by Kelly Macdonald).
The Cast (HD 2:32) – This final featurette takes a look at the various actors and the roles they play in the movie.
Gallery (HD 2:08) – A collection of 25 behind-the-scenes and production photos from the movie, which can be watched as a slide show or manually advanced through using one's remote control.
Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:28) – The original theatrical trailer for the movie.
Goodbye Christopher Robin is a wonderful little movie telling the true story of writer A. A. Milne in a way that's never been captured before. The movie has a strong message about the dangers of fame, but it never tries to drive its cautionary tale too strongly into viewers' heads. Regardless of whether you're the biggest Winnie the Pooh fan in the world or have never liked the children's stories, you owe it to yourself to see this surprisingly moving story. Recommended.