Goodbye Christopher Robin: Comfort in our troubles

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‘His childhood was sacrificed to make other childhoods better’ says Will Tilston about the title character he plays in Goodbye Christopher Robin.

This is the latest film providing a surprising back-story to a popular children’s book. But unlike Saving Mr. Banks, Miss Potter and Finding Neverland (which primarily focus on the mind of the writer) Goodbye Christopher Robin also shows the impact on the story’s main character, who is a real person – the author’s eight-year-old son.

This young boy has been experiencing the pain of living with emotionally disengaged parents. His father is shell-shocked from the First World War, and finds it difficult to express his feelings. His mother cannot properly attach to her son because she is convinced that another such war is inevitable and he will be called up to fight, so she showers him with affection one minute and ignores him the next.

Then, in a magical few days when Christopher is alone with his father in the woods surrounding their Sussex house, the two of them bond together through imaginary stories about a group of toy animals. Christopher’s father is A. A. Milne, who writes these down as the tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, and the whole family finds themselves swept up in the success of the books. But young Christopher Robin cannot stay little forever. As he grows, these childhood stories make his adolescent life a misery.

We can’t detail the end of the film without spoilers but can highlight that, in the final scenes, we discover that the tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, which had comforted the young boy, became comforting to others in their own distress. Perhaps, as we watch this powerful and moving film, we might reflect on the biblical message that God ‘comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive.’