A not-so innocent review of the movie Goodbye Christopher Robin
*** 3/3 ***
One of the therapists I have been seeing, one of the three regular fixtures in my “posse” [just who exactly is in the posse and what they do was taken up here], has moved up in my estimation through her blasé ability to dig deep into my psyche even when we are not in session. She has done this to me twice, and both times, her recommendations have shaken me to the core.
The first recommendation was a book she asked me to read, which I did, and found it so apt to so many things I am exploring and discovering that I read it in one sitting. I can’t remember the last time that happened. I will write about that sometime soon.
Her next recommendation was for me to watch the film Goodbye Christopher Robin. This film is a wistful and poignant look at the author A.A. Milne’s life, the genesis of the Winnie the Pooh story and character, and all the people in his son, Christopher Robbins’s, and his own, life.
I loved this movie. I didn’t know any of the back story, though I did enjoy the book that proved his most famous work. It is a good movie. Perhaps an excellent movie, and as a movie, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. One thing I particularly enjoyed was how the story, their lives, unfolded amidst the devastation of the First and Second World Wars, and how Pooh fitted in. A.A. Milne, in particular, wanted to write a book against war, taking his prominent pulpit as a successful playwright, and turning to the horrors of war, which he understood and was traumatised by through his own service. Such a book would not sell he was advised, but write it he did on the eve of the Second World War…the book came out in 1939, Peace with Honour. Of course, compared to Pooh, who has heard of it?
[Winnie the Pooh, as a book, is the ultimate anti-war book, but of course, the polemic in it is rather a celebration of the simplicity of life.]
But there was more to the movie for me than a feel good or biographic yarn. I love therapy; we should all do it. Psychotherapists, when good, and when we let them in, have an unfair advantage in being able to land emotional guides. This was no exception. I had the most uncanny feeling in watching this film, and that was finding myself in every character. Has that ever happened to you? Every single important character, their feelings, their failings, all of them, feels so familiar, when they hurt each other, when they laugh and love, when they touch and hug, when they try to grow up, when they fail as people, when they are rude, when they say just the right thing. It was really weird in that way. I guess what I am saying is that this movie resonated with me in ways that were not about plot or a tear-jerker ending…it was like life. My life, my inner landscape. Not the details, but the emotions.
And what really strikes, really, really, is this. The book Winnie the Pooh was essentially a book about innocence. Readers of this blog will know how important that concept of innocence is to me, particularly its poignance and relevance to the life and development of a child. We were all children, broken, wounded, emotionally scarred after the First World War, and Pooh was a kind of antidote. And Pooh was born from the real innocence of a real child, a real Christopher Robin Milne. And as beautiful as his innocence was, and as rich as it was, it was all stolen from him by it becoming the property of everyone everywhere, and more so by the actions of his parents in using him to promote the book. In other words, they dashed his innocence on their own egos. It is painful to watch. It felt a bit to me like every person in the film was wounded, hurting, flawed, but also still trying to love and live. And I could feel all of their mistakes, the disappointments, and all of their successes and joys as if they were my own. They are just so human. The humanity of it is overwhelming.
Do please watch it and let me know what you think.
I don’t even know if this is a sad movie. If it qualifies for tear-jerker status. I am pretty sure it doesn’t. But tell that to the people sitting around me who got to watch me sob through the second half of the film. And as I was blubbing away on the airplane I kept cursing my therapist for asking me to watch a film that she just knew, she just knew that I would react to.
Oh, and the casual way that she suggested I should watch it, that I would find things in it that would speak to me about the things we had talked about. The subtly of her suggestion! Oh, the wiles!
Well, it’s good to blub. And the truth is, she gave me an extraordinary gift in gently hinting that I should watch the movie. I can’t wait to watch it again. It was weird to watch a movie of all your inner voices playing out these train wreck roles in spite of themselves.
I should love to hear any of your own thoughts on this film. And you know what? I can’t wait to see her and tell her how good her aim is…More, please, more.