I missed Christopher Robin when it was in theatres last year, but I watched it just last week at home. If I did end of the year ratings of the movies I watched, this would be a serious contender for best of the year!
The movie begins where the Winnie-the-Pooh books end–they overlap with the first scene of the movie and the last scene of The House at Pooh Corner. I always thought this was one of the saddest scenes in literature, as Christopher Robin is growing up and going away, and has to say good-bye to Pooh and his other friends. The scene is faithfully and beautifully reproduced. Bring your tissues! The movie then goes on, Christopher Robin grows up, and somewhere over the years he loses his way. He becomes, to borrow a phrase from J. M. Barrie who also wrote of children growing up, a “man who doesn’t know any stories to tell his child.” But then Winnie the Pooh comes out of a tree outside Christopher Robin’s house in London, and wants to bring him back to the Hundred Acre Wood.
I have a soft spot for the Winnie the Pooh characters, and this was a charming delight of a movie. The characters are beautifully rendered, in terms of portrayal and the excellent CGI for the stuffed animals. They truly feel like Milne’s characters brought to life, and the details are all spot-on. I notice when movie adaptations get it wrong, and this one got it so very right.
There are truly heart-breaking moments here, but also wonderfully funny ones too. A grown man carrying a teddy bear down a London street, one who wants to wave and say hello to everyone, is a funny bit of cinema, and ample similar hijinks ensue. But there are also many touching moments, and I love the story of a man finding his way by reclaiming something from his childhood.
I do wonder who the intended audience for the movie actually is. Despite the stuffed animals and the moments of funny chaos, the themes and the concepts seem much more targeted for adults than for children. I wondered early on if the hero of the story would end up being Christopher Robin’s daughter, but while she does become involved, the focus remains on grown-up Christopher Robin. Maybe it’s actually meant for people like me, adults who read Winnie the Pooh stories as children. Or maybe I just saw it through my own lens!
I was never okay with the idea of a sequel to The House at Pooh Corner, because Christopher Robin couldn’t come back. There is a written sequel, where Christopher Robin comes home for summer holidays and comes back to the woods, which, while a nice enough book, completely misses all the symbolic and thematic significance of his departure. This movie, however, understood all of it, and brings Christopher Robin back to the Hundred Acre Wood in the exactly perfect way. Beautifully done.