Many who frequent here are aware that I spent the better part of a decade as a film critic. It was really an amazing experience and awarded me many really cool opportunities. Criticizing for a living also has this way of leaving one jaded. I walked away from the job when I realized I had lost my ability to simply enjoy a movie. Some habits die-hard, but I believe I am a lot more tolerable to watch movies with now, than I had become at one time. You’d have to ask my husband to know for sure…
It’s pretty rare that I step up, when asked, to review a film. I’ve found that, for me personally, I go into it with a certain level of expectation. I have a list of things to look for, this white glove test is an intense one, I’m afraid.
I have been waiting a really long time to see Goodbye, Christopher Robin. Like every other girl of the early 90’s time frame, I have a strong affinity for Classic Pooh. (yes I did spend my 23rd birthday in a Disney Store issues Classic Pooh denim jumper, and no, it was not my only type of Classic Pooh clothing. shut up…) The trailers sold this film as so heartwarming, at least that is how I perceived it. And maybe, maybe I’m not really the most impartial person to criticize this movie. The truth is, there were things I genuinely LOVED about this movie…
And there were things I absolutely detested.
I loved that, as that Classic Pooh loving place in my heart would swell and sigh, this film is visually stunning! There are so many images taken straight out of the beloved illustrations. (Perhaps I would be much more in favor of this visually beautiful film if it were silent, minus some gorgeous music playing over the course of these images.) There are some genuinely comical moments and, for the most part, the acting is good. Nearly everything else, for me, would be a negative. I feel as though my love of such an ironically classic childhood treasure has been unknowingly a supportive party to something tragically dark and terrible. It is, in this way, that the title of the film haunts me all the more. Goodbye, Christopher Robin. Goodbye, innocent love of the beloved characters and the hundred acre wood.
Alan “Blue” Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) is a fairly successful play write, returning from the war zone known as WWI. Suffering with immense PTSD, it seems as though some amount of pressure falls upon his wife Daphne, (Margo Robbie) to pull him out of the dark places and make him successful once again. It is in this way that the two come to be parents of Billy Moon, whose Christian name is Christopher Robin. It is all lovely and beautiful until around this point. Soon enough, the beloved nanny, (played impeccably by Kelly Macdonald) arrives on the scene. It is, sadly, only thanks to her that sweet little Billy/Christopher Robin grows up knowing any love at all. As an adoptive parent of kids who have been deeply wounded by the self-centered abuses and negligence of birth parents, I find myself very sensitive to such themes. While our sweet boy is never actually abused, he is beyond neglected by his parents. His mother, from my perspective, only ever seems interested in the fun bits of motherhood spotlighting her, while her real focus is on position, fame, glamour, money and attention. His father, for one brief and beautiful season, allows himself to surrender and lose himself in the enjoyment of time and adventure with his son. It is from this very incredible time that our stories are born. Sadly, his effort at Fatherhood ends here, and no one realizes any of this until our sweet boy is a man gone off to fight a war against Hitler. This interim, for Christopher Robin is, often times, nothing short of hellish and isolating.
As I sit here, however, I have to admit that although this story is tragic, depressing and has potentially robbed me of something sweet and precious, it is not the film’s fault. This movie simply depicts the true story of a damaged man, his selfish wife, and how these things affected their son. And maybe that is where the magic potentially lives. Not one of us are a perfect spouse or parent. Not one of us hasn’t been responsible for a wound in the life of a child. As terribly sad and ugly as this background is, the happiness and love that stems from the pages of A.A. Milne’s beloved Pooh bear, and the very reaching effects it has had must count for something.
Did I love this movie? I did.
Did I hate it? I did.
It is complicated and confusing. It is a beautiful and thoughtfully filmed piece of art about a tragically sad and little known story.
It is honest.