About the Film:
After leaving London for the English countryside, writer A.A. Milne starts to spin fanciful yarns about his son’s growing collection of stuffed animals. These stories form the basis for “Winnie-the-Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner,” published respectively in 1926 and 1928. Milne and his family soon become swept up in the instant success of the books, while the enchanting tales bring hope and comfort to the rest of postwar England.
I don’t watch movies often. Not because I don’t like them, it’s more of a time factor. When you read as much as I do, there’s not much time left over for movies or TV. So when the school holidays roll around and I get a couple of weeks off work (one of the reasons I never left school – all those holidays every 10 weeks) I usually try to watch a few movies and the odd TV series, provided it doesn’t have too many episodes, because, reading! I have a habit of buying the movies I want to watch on DVD when I see them at their ‘introductory price’, which is still really more than a DVD should cost these days, but even so, I then stockpile until I’m ready to watch.
It’s Easter break right now and I have been so keen to see Goodbye Christopher Robin ever since I heard it was being made. I adore Winnie the Pooh. I bought little reproduction editions, with original art work, of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner when I was pregnant with my eldest child, who is now 16, who incidentally watched this movie with me as well. My husband and I used to read these stories to our children from when they were babies until they were about five or six and began demanding other stories (boo to them!). My husband had never heard or read Winnie the Pooh before and he used to read them well past the time the children had fallen asleep, enjoying the wit much in the way adults have for decades since their publication. We went down the Disney road as well, bit hard to avoid with kids, but the original stories were always the most treasured, by all of us.
I never knew that Christopher Robin was A.A.Milne’s son. Nor did I know that these stories were based on his son’s games and playtime. I found this incredibly touching, especially when the stories and illustrations began taking shape, the whole creation aspect involving Billy-Moon (Christopher), Ernest (the illustrator and friend of A.A.Milne) and Blue (A.A.Milne). It was like this lovely atmosphere of play and creativity, and I kept thinking about how special it was that a father had immortalised his son’s childhood in such an incredible way. And then I began to feel differently, as the effects of this on Billy-Moon began to take shape. Such an incredible little actor who played Billy-Moon too, he was just perfect at conveying so much with a single look. I reached this point where I just broke down and cried, all I could think about was how they were selling Billy-Moon’s childhood. Everything was either orchestrated for the media or written into the stories. It was tragic and what was worse, was that no one but Billy-Moon’s nanny, Nou, could see what was happening, because she was the only one bothering to take notice. When Blue finally took notice himself, it was a bit too late, and his response, to never write about Winnie the Pooh again and to immediately enrol Billy-Moon into boarding school kind of missed the mark and set the poor boy up for a difficult adolescence.
Thank goodness Billy-Moon had Nou for his early years. She loved him so much and parented him so well. She was just so beautiful. Billy-Moon’s mother, Daphne, was a different story altogether. Self-entitled and self-absorbed, she was a woman that I understood but didn’t like, not one little bit. Shortly after Billy-Moon was born, she expressed her disappointment over him not being a girl, because ‘boys grow up into men and put on a uniform and go to war, and I’m just not going to go through that again.’ Now while I understood this, I failed to comprehend it being a reason to shut yourself off from really bonding with your child. It’s a classic example of her bringing everything back to herself and how it affects her, and her alone. I also found her particularly unsympathetic to Blue’s PTSD. Blue himself I quite liked, especially his evolving relationship with his son. He was deeply affected by the war, not only afflicted by PTSD but plagued with a fear that it would all happen again – he got that one right! Creating the Winnie the Pooh stories was in some ways quite healing for him, I thought.
This was a beautifully rendered film and so well cast. The emotion was always close to the surface. It’s left me feeling a little different about my Winnie the Pooh books though. I feel almost now like they are attached to a lost childhood, that their cost was so much greater than I ever could have imagined. It also makes me treasure them all the more, so that none of it was for nothing, a means of honouring that relationship between Blue and Billy-Moon. I loved this film, so much, and I love the way it’s made me think about these wonderful books in a new light. Goodbye Christopher Robin is a fine example of literature intersecting with film. Delightful, hearbreaking, and deeply affecting – if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do. And if you have, what did you think?