Just a boy and his bear: Christopher Robin and his Pooh Bear. An untouchable tale enshrined eternally within the childhood psyche. Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo are our friends and are to us as real as Christopher Robin. But truly, who was Christopher Robin? Our immortalised playmate, who cast large shadows across our idyllic childhood stories, was a real boy who lived a real life with his Pooh Bear.
A.A Milne, aka Blue (Domhall Gleeson), is a post-war version of himself, disillusioned and suffering from PTSD. His wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) is the striking socialite who gives beautiful brief snapshots of affection.
From the outset, the film establishes Milne’s relationship with his son as the pivotal dimension; their difficult and complex dynamics fill the screen. Nonetheless, there is far deeper relationship hidden from sight and the egos of the parents: that of the young Billy Moon, aka Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), and his nanny ‘Nou’, Olive Rand (Kelly Macdonald).
Their relationship is enchanting and truly the saving grace of the film. Without ‘Nou’, there would be too much tragedy surrounding Billy; his shining moments with his ‘Blue’ are taken and sold off for other children. He is cast as the martyr in this tale, as his Pooh was used to remind a post-war world of the happiness that they had forgotten. In the forging of our most beloved childhood story a little boy’s world was sacrificed, and he was forced to parade around in the clothes of Christopher Robin. A boy he never was.
The film, especially with Milne and Daphne, falls short of creating well-rounded characters; they appear as caricatures of themselves, with nail-scratching false English accents to boot. There are glimpses of perhaps the true Milne scattered amongst the scenes with Billy Moon. Sometimes, however, the film relies too much on an eternal affection for Winnie the Pooh to pull the plot through.
Ultimately, Goodbye Christopher Robin is a film that attempts to reveal the real boy who lurked behind the fantasied image of the tales, and the relationship with his father that immortalised him. It appears that the film tries to say goodbye to ‘Christopher Robin’, in order to reveal Christopher. For better or worse, however, Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear will be eternally walking through those forests with us.
Image: Paul K, Flickr