Monday, October 16, 2017

Goodbye Christopher Robin is the Tear-Jerking Film You Expect it to Be [Contributor: Megan Mann]

Deep in the hundred acre wood, a boy and his bear would spend the day. They would search for honey, think in their thinking spot, and visit with all of their animal friends: a pig, a tiger, a donkey, an owl, a kangaroo and her joey. They would sing merry little songs, show each other love, and support and dole out wisdom that would last for decades to come.

Between the pages of A.A. Milne’s globally beloved storybook, Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh shared a friendship that was truly magical. After all, Pooh once said that “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” And he took up a major chunk of Christopher Robin’s heart for all of the world to enjoy.

But for the real Christopher Robin, the friendship that defined his life was one he wished he’d never had.

In Fox Searchlight’s new film Goodbye Christopher Robin, we learn of the Milne family and how the story of Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger too) came to be the most beloved story of all time the world over — including all of the complications that came with it.

A.A. Milne was a man who fought in World War I and struggled to put the front behind him upon returning to the bustling city of London. Now we know this affliction as PTSD, but at the time he believed he, his socialite wife, and their young son needed to leave the noise and find more peace and quiet in the countryside of Sussex. But the noise didn’t stop. He found himself unable to work, and when he did, it was on a book about peace around the world and avoiding war.

While he contemplated how best to write this, his wife could no longer take the countryside and resolved to return to London until he was fully back at work and has something to show for it. Coincidentally, it was at this time that their son (who is nicknamed Billy Moon)'s nanny had to tend to her ailing mother before she passed, thus leaving father and son alone in the house. It was during these precious few weeks that Billy shares about the lovable creatures of the hundred acre wood with his father. And their lives change forever.

I knew going in that Goodbye Christopher Robin was going to be an absolute tearjerker. And let me tell you, my fine movie-going pals — it was. The family drama tugs at your heartstrings, the story will move you and — at least for a person like me who has been a nanny for years and developed an extremely close relationship with the children — the story of Billy Moon and Nou, the two who inspired the first poem Vespers that lead to Winnie the Pooh, really got me going. I mean, this is coming from someone who also cried the moment they showed Winnie and Piglet, when he named them Tigger and Eeyore, and when his mother presented him with Kanga and Roo. So while the emotion in the film is absolutely there, what I am trying to say is that you may not cry as hard as this emotionally unstable human did.

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It was a deeply informative film. It took us to a time in British history coming off of one war, learning how to piece itself back together again, only to find themselves thrust into one far worse than before. Sure, it was about the Milne family and how we ventured into the wood in the first place, but it was also about how the stories of Winnie and his friends changed the way an entire country coped with that extremely tumultuous time in history. As someone who has been familiar with these characters all of my life, it was eye-opening to see it from a new perspective and observe just how intense the fervor was when Winnie-the-Pooh was first released and how it has sustained itself as the most beloved children’s story of all time.

The film was also just beautiful to look at. Shot in the English countryside, director Simon Curtis gives you such a stunning visual that draws you in and makes you believe this magical, fictional world of the hundred acre wood is real and accessible. He makes you realize how easy a place like that lends itself to the imagination. The story, beautifully written by Simon Vaughan and Frank Cottrell Boyce, would not have had such an immense impact had it not been for the cast. Domnhall Gleeson, a wildly underrated actor, brings the vulnerability of Milne’s suffering and his ability to maintain an imagination to life in a wildly nuanced performance. And his socialite, status-driven wife Daphne was fully realized by Margot Robbie.

But the performance that truly shined was done by Will Tilston, who played the young Christopher Robin — the boy who created the story he wished his father had written for him and no one else. He broke your heart and made you cry, but made you laugh too. He made you believe that he really was that attached to Nou, the nanny that raised Billy (played by Kelly Macdonald). Believe me when I say that this kid is bound for greatness in the acting realm.

Goodbye Christopher Robin packs a serious punch and isn’t a film you should go into if you’re looking to have a good laugh. It’s a heavy film, despite the inclusion of Winnie the Pooh, and deals with familial struggle, mental health, war, and how there’s hope even in times of war. It will remind you why these characters have stood the test of time and make you want to visit your old friends. This movie is truly special and I would be disappointed if it doesn’t make the rounds this upcoming award season.


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