Repressed feelings and isolation are channeled through writing what would be a children’s classic about a young boy and his animal friends in this historical drama, Goodbye Christopher Robin.
England after the First World War had rigid social rules and manners for the upper class, in an affectless culture. A.A. Milne came back from the war broken but unable to talk about the trauma he experienced.
A writer (of the beloved Winnie the Pooh series) and playwright, Milne (played by Domhnall Gleeson of Revenant), experiencing PTSD, moves to the country with his family. Caring for his son on his own, he and his son relate through a fantasy world of oddly named and imaginary animals. It is then that Winnie the Pooh and his magical world are discovered.
Post-WW I is a world of longing, deep emotion, unexpressed love, fear and anxiety, social problems, public school bullying, economic issues, and anti-war sentiment. It is this atmosphere that gives birth to an escape in the form of books about charming animals and a child, Christopher Robin.
A secondary theme is connection. The author’s son Christopher watches his emotionally distant father’s violent and traumatic reaction to noise. The boy wants to connect with his father but is fearful of him. Feeling abandoned he pushes his father to play with him in the woods. They build structures together for imaginary animals and through their creations, share a common reality and friendship.
The connection as well as disconnection alternate between Milne and his son. The private son-father moments become public with the publication of Winnie the Pooh. Christopher feels exploited that his name is used and that his favorite bear becomes Winnie the Pooh. The relationship starts to deteriorate when Christopher sees that the attention he receives from his father is tied to the book and its sales.
At the end of the Second World War father and son are reunited and the viewer sees what happens to the adult Christopher and how he related to his legacy.
Goodbye Christopher Robin is a gentle, beautiful, anti-war film and a narrative of a father-son bonding in difficult times.
NOTE: “The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 41 million: there were over 18 million deaths and 23 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. The total number of deaths includes from 9 to 11 million military personnel and about 5 to 6 million civilians…” Wikipedia