Wait – you’re the bear in my father’s drawings?
Christopher Robin’s daughter, Madeline, in Christopher Robin
Last week I finally had the opportunity to watch the new Christopher Robin movie with a group of friends.
I’d looked forward to this movie so very much.
Swooned over the merchandise.
And waited with baited breath to see what they’d done with one of my most beloved childhood memories.
The appeal of Winnie the Pooh to so many of us is, in itself, a thing to think about. When the Pooh poems and stories first began to come out after the first World War, a traumatized Great Britain clung to the tales of childhood innocence – where wisdom came in the form of simple truths. The characters, from Pooh to Tigger to Eeyore, are such profound personality prototypes that we can all identify them with people we know and love – or even aspects of ourselves.
And of course there’s that ever appealing story of a world that’s bigger and deeper than meets the eye – an idea that’s appealed to every generation, be it through the stories of Christopher Robin and Pooh, Harry Potter, or Toy Story. We are forever taken with the idea of a world that is more than skin deep and where we and the things that we love are special and important and full of magic. Whether it’s toys that come to life or a young boy who finds out that he’s a wizard, that idea – that daydream – that we and our people and possessions are extraordinary, even enchanted, is something that never leaves us. We are forever tempted by tales that make our own personal stories as important to the world as they are in our own minds.
But with all of that said – with a childhood filled with Pooh nostalgia that goes back as far as I do (I came home from the hospital after being born wrapped in a Pooh blanket that I still have today) – I did not know what to expect of Christopher Robin. I did not know how my childhood memories and these characters and Pooh’s clever quips would translate into a full length film geared as much to adults as children.
What I ended up getting, from beginning to end, was a movie that I could love and identify with so very much. It felt so geared to my own personal story that I wondered how very differently other people must have been experiencing it.
I will not tell the entire story here, as you’ve either already seen it yourself or haven’t yet and deserve not to have it spoiled…but in the story a grown Christopher Robin with adult responsibilities and problems finds himself reconnected with his stuffed childhood friends. Interestingly, Pooh is the only one who immediately recognizes him.
Oh, I don’t see any cracks. A few wrinkles, maybe.
Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh, upon being reunited, in Christopher Robin
This grown Christopher Robin is, though, plagued by the sort of realities that we often face as adults. He is a low level executive at a luggage company and, at the start, just before he meets back with his old friends, he has had to cancel on a getaway to his family cottage with his wife and daughter because he has been told that countless people will be losing their jobs if he does not work through the weekend to find a way to cut costs by twenty percent.
And herein began my whole-hearted respect for this movie. It is beautiful. It made me cry from its opening scene. Pooh and Tigger and Eeyore and Piglet and Kanga and Roo and Owl are as perfect as they were when they came to be almost 100 years ago. The CGI serves the characters and not vice versa – the animals and their movements and speech are as simple and lovely as they deserve to be. But the real magic of this movie, for me, is that it understands Christopher Robin’s adult realities before it begins to work through them. No matter how miserable our day to day jobs might be – no matter what the negative impact on our satisfaction or our happiness or our loved ones – in the thick of their reality, no matter how much of a replaceable cog you might be at 1000 feet, we often work hard at the expense of the more “important” things in life because people are depending on us. Because if no one else steps up, we must. Because even if we feel stuck in our positions, we also feel with them the weight of responsibility to others – be it the people that we employ and oversee or the clients that we serve or the community at large. And as providers, we also feel the weight of responsibility to our loved ones to create security – or even comfort.
If I work really hard now, in the future our lives will be…
Your life is happening now, right in front of you.
Christopher Robin and his wife, Evelyn, in Christopher Robin
Our spouses might miss us. Our children might express disappointment at times. We might even slowly feel ourselves losing touch with our own identities – with the person that we thought we were and would become as children (are we seeing why I identified so deeply with this movie?) but in the moment of that work-related sacrifice, whether we are just a cog in the wheel or not, it is because we feel the weight of responsibility that we sometimes choose work over our loved ones, or even our own identities.
As such, without giving away the heart of the movie or the entire storyline and ending – Christopher Robin is perfect because it not only takes us back to the Hundred Acre Wood of our childhood, but it starts with a Christopher Robin that exists in the reality of adulthood without demonizing his choices. It understands that he is a grown up with adult realities and it is with Pooh that he does not abandon or escape his responsibilities, but finds a way to honor himself and his wife and daughter within them. It forces him to identify his adulthood Heffalumps and Woozles and to work through them and it makes each of us wonder a bit about our own.
And all of that said, it is truly just beautiful. It is childhood and adulthood and fantasy and reality. It celebrates youth and simplicity without minimizing or demonizing the responsibilities and realities of adulthood. And it teaches us that even if there might not be a way out in that moment, there might just be a way through.
Oh…and stay for the mid-credits scene. Please.
Have you seen Christopher Robin yet? If and when you do, I would love to hear your thoughts.