I received complimentary viewing passes to watch the movie Goodbye Christopher Robin. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This is the movie description from the website Rotten Tomatoes:
GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN gives a rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin, whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie the Pooh. Along with his mother Daphne, and his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald), Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War. But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family?
Review of Goodbye Christopher Robin
Goodbye Christopher Robin is not the movie you’d expect. While the movie poster shows father and son walking through the illustrated world of Winnie-the-Pooh the movie is less about the actual books than it is about the author and his family. The movie does not sugar coat the cracked relationship this child has with his parents. Christopher Robin’s mother Daphne and father A.A. Milne are wealthy socialites. Much of the boy’s time is spent in the loving care of his nanny, Olive (whom he calls Neu).
While his parents work at building social connections via travel and parties, their child is home with Nanny. As to be expected, the relationship that he has with his nanny is often a tighter bond than what has developed with his own mother and father.
This is not to diminish the love that Christopher’s parents have for him, however each bring their struggles to the relationships of those around them. A.A. Milne (known as Blue in the movie) suffers from post-WWI trauma, which paints a sadness over his days.
Milne’s wife, Daphne comes across first as superficial, belittling and selfish. She dresses her son in baby girl clothing because, heart-set on a daughter, had purchased the dresses before he was born. She interacts with her son by purchasing the menagerie of stuffed animals, including what would be Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, and Kanga and Roo. She does love her family but is challenged in expressing it at times. I see this more as a sign of the times, when women were coming into their own independence. She is also an affect of her class, a wealthy wife of a famous writer who wants to grab each shiny opportunity that passes her way.
Grabbing these opportunities includes pushing her son into the unwanted spotlight. Once the joyous Winnie the Pooh stories gain popularity in the post-war era, fans flock to Christopher. His sweet childhood days are suddenly filled with responsibilities and obligations towards promoting the books. What was once a sweet way for father and son to bond, is now turned into fiction shared around the world. Well-loved and eventually classic stories, nonetheless, the childhood experiences are lessened in the process.
How Are We Pushing Our Kids Unwillingly Into the Spotlight?
As a lifestyle blogger and mom, I most definitely use my children as inspiration for my posts. I often use their photographs to help illustrate my stories. In the movie, Christopher Robin accuses his father of participating in his childhood games only as a means for having a story to tell. Could I be accused of the same? I think so, in many cases.
In my niche, there are often certain criteria for receiving invitation to particular events and press trips. I do get invited to participate because my children fall into certain age brackets. Would I be invited to these same events if I didn’t have children? Nope. Would I be able to write about these events without the benefit of having my children participating? Nope. Am I participating in activities purely so I’ll have a post to promote? Yep, sometimes. Am I exploiting my children or making them do anything they don’t want to? No, never.
The differences to me lie in when the story is shared and what happens afterwards. If Milne had simply written the stories, I don’t think that Christopher Robin would have struggled so much with the story’s popularity. Perhaps changing the character name in the books so that the story didn’t share his son’s given name would have been of good mind. The fault was in the exploitation of the boy’s childhood. It was in the showiness, the use of Christopher Robin as a marketing tool to promote and connect fans with him to the books. He became a living and breathing story tale come to life, despite his insistence that he was not the same persona as he was being portrayed in the stories.
Sharing, Without Oversharing?
I think that most bloggers balance this aspect in a healthy way. While many of us do write about our children and share stories from their lives, I’d venture to say that most are used as a way of illustrating a specific point. I don’t use the names of my children in business social media accounts or in my blog. My children know what I do as a blog writer. My kids know that if we’re attending a special event or if I’m taking their photograph, that it’s likely to end up on social media. I would never share a story about my kids that is intended to embarrass or otherwise exploit them.
My older kids have on occasion requested that I not share particular photos and I absolutely comply. And if my children ever expressed to me that they no longer want to be included in blog posts or photographed for social media events, I’d understand and comply with this as well. It’s not my intention (and I don’t think it’s the intention of most bloggers) to push our kids into an unwanted spotlight in exchange for our own publicity.
The movie definitely brings up the valid point (especially when seemingly EVERYTHING is shared 24/7). What things are appropriate for sharing and what is sacred to keep private?
Should Your Kids See Goodbye Christopher Robin?
The movie is PG-rated, which would imply that it might be appropriate for younger children. This is not the cuddly story you’d expect from such a topic, since the story focuses more on the relationships between the author, his wife and child. I brought my two 13-year olds, who enjoyed the historical story and understood the underlying darkness of the recovery from war.
There is very little here for younger children, as the movie doesn’t include much of the Winnie-the-Pooh story line except for the fact that the boy brings his teddy where ever he goes. I wouldn’t bring a child under 12 to see this movie, the topics are going to be too adult in nature.
Should You See Goodbye Christopher Robin?
Despite the dark elements of the script, the movie is beautiful to watch. Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred-Acre Woods come to life vividly during the times when Milne is developing his characters. It seemingly never rains in East Sussex! Somehow I don’t think that’s to be believed, though.
The little actor playing Christopher Robin was natural and sweet. I spent a good part of the movie trying to figure out how old the child was (he has his permanent teeth, yet is dressed like a preschooler and has dimples and the innocent imagination of a toddler). My favorite parts of the movie were when he was interacting with his toys, just being a child.
There are some truly beautiful moments in the film (I highly recommend bringing tissues!) And the topic at hand, whether his parents were in the wrong for pushing him to perform as the story book character, makes for some intriguing discussion points.