A. A. Milne returned from the First World War traumatized by what he’d seen. He wanted to help people see the truth of war so that it would never happen again. While he tried to figure out how to do that, life moved forward. He and his wife had a baby, Christopher Robin, and that baby grew into a young boy. The family moved to a home in the country.
As depicted in Goodbye Christopher Robin, Alan Milne and his wife, Daphne, were often distracted and absent parents. Daphne would sometimes play with her son, animating his stuffed animals with different voices as she held them. But Alan buried himself in his office, and Daphne preferred London society to their newly rural lives. Instead of his parents, Christopher Robin (who went by the nickname Billy Moon) enjoyed the company of a wonderful, loving nanny.
Billy Moon’s imaginative play in the woods with his stuffed friends brought Alan some emotional healing. At the same time, he began to see the potential for children’s stories and verse. Winnie the Pooh was born, and with it, a literary Christopher Robin. With Milne’s writing success came an unexpected kind of fame.
The fictional Christopher Robin began to take over the life of the real one. Everyone wanted to know the boy with the lovable bear. For a while, the excitement and glamor made it fun, but after a while, fame began to take a toll on the family, particularly on young Billy Moon.
This film is torn between reverence for the lovable, whimsical product of the joint family imagination and the reality that the fame Christopher Robin Milne experienced included a dark side. The countryside and the creative process are captured with great beauty and care, even as the storyline is shadowed with pain and isolation.
The movie seems to take some liberties with the real family’s relationships. Nevertheless, it reminds viewers of the fleeting nature of childhood and the vital role parents take in the formation of their children even as Billy is left to the care of his nanny and becomes a prop on the stage of his father’s fame. I suspect I’m not the only one who has been guilty of leaving my children in the care of digital babysitters a little too often while tending to other aspects of daily life.
While at times a sad and brooding story, Goodbye Christopher Robin shines when it celebrates the vivid imagination and the contagious excitement of youth. On disc now. (Fox Searchlight)