“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” – A.A. Milne
As both a child and as an adult I’ve always had an affinity for A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh quotes, so beautifully simple, sweet, and profound. Prior to seeing Goodbye Christopher Robin, however, I knew nothing about Winnie the Pooh’s author, whose full name was Alan Alexander Milne, and never stopped to consider where the idea for Winnie the Pooh and all his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood stemmed.
Domhnall Gleeson stars as Alan Milne, a once-funny playwright whose experiences in the Great War inhibited him from finding the humor in life once he returned from the battlefront. Suffering from what today would be known as post-traumatic stress disorder, Milne was determined to write something meaningful, daring to dream that war could be eliminated worldwide. Finding his hometown in London too busy and filled with too many noises that startled him with his own horrific flashbacks of war, Milne moved with his wife and son to Sussex, England’s Ashdown Forest.
As he struggled to put his thoughts into written word, his young son, Christopher Robin, proved to be a delightful distraction. The father-son pair spent hours together on walks through the woods, where they used their imaginations in glorious fashion. With an innocent request from his son, affectionately known as Billy Moon, Milne discovered a new purpose, writing a book of poems that his son would want to read, sparking him to create the fantasy world where Winnie the Pooh walks side by side with his best friend Piglet.
Goodbye Christopher Robin not only explains the origins of the timeless Winnie the Pooh books penned by Milne, it highlights how the characters, inspired by his son and his beloved toys, proved to be just as healing to Milne as they were entertaining to Billy. As I watched the film, I learned how significant Milne’s works were to a generation of people who, like him, were struggling to find the good in the world as they tried to recover from the devastation of World War I.
The film also explains how Milne’s real-life wife, the rather cold but socially-savvy Daphne, portrayed by Margot Robbie, was so instrumental in bringing the make-believe world her husband created to the people of England as well as to the rest of the world. To think that Winnie the Pooh might have only existed within the Milne family is something, isn’t it?
Of course, with the phenomenal success of his books, came a worldwide thirst for learning more about the real Christopher Robin, and the film highlights how being thrust into the public spotlight affected father and son alike. As much as the books brought joy to adults and children, Billy couldn’t help but feel like a piece of his childhood was being stolen from him as others became intimately familiar with his most treasured moments with his father.
My husband Mike and ten year old daughter Addie attended the film with me. As a parent, I felt sentimental and nostalgic watching it with Addie, making me fondly recall how she loved Winnie-the-Pooh when she was a little one.
Addie, Mike, and I all shed tears during the movie. After the movie, Addie, still misty-eyed, hugged me as she said, “It made me wish I wouldn’t grow up so fast. I want to stay little.” (Yes, that made me teary all over again.)
While the film is rated PG, I don’t necessarily think it would be a good film for kids under the age of 8 because I don’t think most children would understand Milne’s complicated war recollections or be able to empathize with Billy’s bitterness.
The acting was exceptional, and my favorite character would have to be Kelly Macdonald’s Olive, Billy’s nanny. I admired her fierce loyalty to the child she loved as if he was her own, and respected how she saw the big picture when no one else could see the impact the published works were having on Billy. (Plus her Scottish accent was just so darn charming.)
If you, like almost every person in the world, have always had a soft spot for Winnie the Pooh, then go see Goodbye Christopher Robin. After seeing the movie, the quote below certainly applies. Now that I know Milne’s story, I love Winnie the Pooh even more.
“Sometimes, said Pooh, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” – A.A. Milne
Movie times: click here
Genre: Biography, Family, History
Director: Simon Curtis
Actors: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald
Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements, some bullying, war images and brief language