Film (Re)View – Goodbye Christopher Robin

As I sat down with my good friend to watch this film, I commented that I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a PG. She looked at me very strangely, but it’s true.

Believe it or not, I am a lifetime fan of Winnie the Pooh, or I was, until I saw this film. I have the books, the toys and even a favourite umbrella, all of which I look at a little differently now.

To say my love is wavering is an understatement. This film was a heartbreaking look into the truth behind those stories and their enduring success.

Milne, suffering from PTSD after WWI, is unable to write. His wife, Daphne, gives birth to a son whom she immediately shuns saying she ‘cannot give her love again to someone who will go to war and never come back.’

Christopher Robin, known to the family as Billy Moon, is dressed in smocks and Mary Janes, due to his mother’s desire for a daughter. Although she is the one who buys him, and does the voices for, the toys which become the legends, she maintains her distance and Billy sees his nanny – Noo – as his main parent.

Milne takes the family to live in Ashdown Forest (100 acre wood) in Sussex, saying the peace and quiet will spur him to write again. It doesn’t. Daphne leaves him, saying she will return when he writes something. This coincides with Noo having to leave to nurse her ailing mother and Milne and Billy Moon are thrown together for the first time.

It is through spending time with his son and his toys that Milne starts to write again and Winnie the Pooh is born.

His poem, Vespers, about Billy saying his prayers before bed, is the catalyst for his success, driven by the attention seeking, fame hungry Daphne.

It is a little unclear how much Milne knew of the marketing for the stories, but it shocked me to the core.

The Winnie the Pooh stories are not fictional tales written for a little boy about him and his bear, they are factual accounts of a little boy’s life and the imaginary world he creates with his toys.

Billy Moon is farmed out as a marketing toy to shops, tea parties with hundreds of kids, photo shoots etc and it is Noo who accompanies him, while his parents revel in the fame and the money.

It is only when Noo quits that Milne realises the impact on his son that he vows never to write another Winnie the Pooh story, but the damage is done. As Billy Moon is sent to boarding school, the hell of his life begins, as he is bullied mercilessly for the stories his father wrote about him. It is only through fighting in WWII that he finds a sense of peace, when he witnesses other soldiers drawing on these stories for comfort – a sense of home.

A truly heartbreaking story of an innocent life destroyed by the greed of a parent (his mother).

I firmly believe that it wasn’t the stories that ruined his life, but the PR wagon he was forced to ride, by a mother who saw no issue with any of it.

It makes me sad to think that a bear who has given so much joy to millions of children had to destroy one little boy’s life to do so.

I will never look at Winnie the Pooh in the same way again.

I cried… will too.