I’m a huge lover of film… how could anyone not be? Ever since I studied film and media at GCSE and A Level, and then Scriptwriting as part of my Creative Writing degree, I’ve always loved the untold stories of films, the implied but subtle progression of characters and how each one carries with them their own interpretation of events.
Some films really stick with you, and three films that have always lingered in my mind are Like Crazy, Get Out, and Shutter Island. But now I think Goodbye Christopher Robin has to top that list, purely because I’ve never blubbed quite so much at the cinema while watching a film.
Simon Curtis’ film recalls the life of author of A.A.Milne who is most famous for writing the Winnie the Pooh series. The film begins in the uncertain period between the first and second World War. This period in England was incredible unsettled, and there was a definite repression as everyone carried on with a stiff upper lip, pretending the war hadn’t happened and that there certainly wouldn’t be another one.
On returning from war, Milne’s wife Daphne expects him to continue writing comedy plays as he did before, assuming they will resume their standing within the upper class London socialites. But Milne (‘Blue’) remains deeply affected by the war, suffering with what we now know as PTSD. Blue and Daphne have a baby in he hope of cheering up, and Christopher Robin Milne (who they nickname Billy Moon) is born. The family then move to Sussex, as Blue hopes for his memories of the war to disperse in the quiet countryside, and plans to write a book to change the current state of the world and its view on war.
The film truly captures the post-war struggle of 1920’s England, and everything from the strained relationship between man and wife, as well as the casual neglect of their son is very much authentic, demonstrating how self-absorbed and ignorant we can be, particularly after tragedy. Men in this era were incredible reluctant to show any kind of weakness, and depression (particulraly caused by the shell-shock of war) was something to repress and absolutely ignore.
The film has some truly heart-warming moments, particularly when Daphne goes back to London and Nanny Noo cares for her sick mother, leaving Blue and Billy to their own devices for two weeks. Domhnall Gleeson, who plays Blue has always been one of my favourite actors, ever since I watched him in About Time. I think whatever character he portrays, a sense of warmth and kindness leaks out of him, and it was a lovely thing to see in Goodbye Christopher Robin, especially during the interactions with Billy Moon (played by the most adorable child I’ve ever seen, Will Tilston). In these scenes with Blue and Billy, we see Blue begin to overcome his trauma from the war through the bond with his son. It was uncommon for men in the 20’s to look after their children or pay them attention, but Blue discovers his son is the cure for his sadness, and they begin a beautiful relationship through the make-believe world of Billy’s toys and their adventures in the woods (spoilers, the make believe world becomes Winnie the Pooh).
This film definitely has some parallels with Saving Mr Banks, which similarly recalls the life of famous author P.L. Travers (author of Mary Poppins) and her reluctant encounter with filmmaker Walt Disney. Although Saving Mr Banks likewise has moments of extreme sadness, Goodbye Christopher Robin has a more extensive view of character, and delves further into the bond between parent and child, and how fragile this can be.
Without wanting to give too much of the film away, there are some moments of pure joy that will make even the sternest eyes water. One of my favourite moments is when Blue and Billy are in the woods with dozens of red balloons, trying to get Owl’s house to fly. When the balloons burst, the sound reminds Blue of a gun, and he begins to retreat into one of his traumatic flashbacks. Billy and Ernest (Blue’s illustrator/publisher) sense Blue’s discomfort, and so continue to pop balloons in the hope it will snap him out of his dark thoughts. Blue then smiles and joins in with stomping on balloons, and honestly I never thought the sound of balloons popping would make me cry but it did.
There are likewise moments of the film that I could barely see because my mascara was running down my face with such force. There is such a candid vulnerability to this film, and the characters are so believable and real in those 90-minutes that it’s impossible not to cry. Margot Robbie’s character Daphne, who is the least warm and likable character, has some wonderful lines throughout the film. One of the best is ‘We don’t blub in this house’, and this is following a scene where the entire cinema is trying not to blub.
To me, there is nothing lovelier than a character who begins as stern and ambiguous, but slowly becomes kind and reveals their silliness. That to me is what Goodbye Christopher Robin achieved, and it’s the kind of inconspicuous film that I would enjoy over and over without ever getting bored.
This film shows the darker side of a beloved children’s book, and demonstrates how nothing in this world in perfect, not even Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. It conveys the strained relationships in all families, and how difficult it can be to balance our own wants with the greater good for our loved ones. We each have our own wars inside that can stay with us forever, but it’s how we choose to overcome hardship that really matters (cheesy I know, but there we go).