Film Review: Christopher Robin

By Dilip Barman

I grew up reading "Winnie the Pooh"; the adorable characters and sweet plots remind me of my childhood and, in turn, I have raised my daughter with Pooh and friends. As an adult, I read and saw a stage production of Benjamin Hoff's "The Tao of Pooh," which deepened my connection to that "silly old bear," giving some philosophical insight and portraying Pooh Bear with Zen wisdom through simplicity. My daughter and I were excited about the release of the film Christopher Robin and watched it on opening night.

We weren't disappointed! We were treated to a beautiful and well-paced story for children and lovers of Pooh of all ages.

The film was rather beautifully and sweetly sentimental. I felt choked up many times in the first third or so of the film to see the charming innocence of childhood contrasted with the "reality" of an imperfect professional life. How could Christopher Robin leave behind the joy and simplicity of his childhood friends and end up in a world where human bonds are not as cherished?

Ideals of friendship, caring, and love were portrayed to appeal both to children (maybe not to older children or teens -or adults! - with cynicism) and to adults. Children will see the contrast between happy-go-lucky play and friendship bonds vs. sometimes unfriendly and uncaring professional demands. However, I do think that children need to also get the message that hard work is important. Adults will find the message overly simplified, but especially those with children in their lives will likely find this to be a gentle reminder of priorities in life. The story at least sets the stage for considering seeking balance of child-like creative outlook while being attentive to one's responsibilities.

I loved the film's pacing. I admire stories like this that reveal themselves naturally and warmly, not in a rush with so much presented to the viewer so quickly that it can deaden one's appreciation. The film lingered nicely and could have even continued a bit longer to let the last bits of it savor nicely. Without spoiling things, there is even nice footage during the closing credits that is fun to watch.

With a bit of reservation, I liked the acting and found the performances, especially of Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin, to be memorable. His daughter Madeline, played by Bronte Carmichael, was sweet but could have been built up a bit more. I wish that Hayley Atwell, playing Christopher Robin's wife Evelyn, could have played a larger role and her talent allowed to shine more. I also understand that the key relationship was of Christopher Robin with Winnie the Pooh. Winnie and friends were spot on to what I might have expected.

There were only a few negatives to the film. Given that it will appeal to a broad range of ages, I feel that an early scene depicting warfare could have been sanitized a bit. Many children will find this scene, albeit short, disturbing. I do wish that the message of working hard were also included in the film. All it would take would be some quick dialog or use of even a minor character as an exemplar. But this is a minor point and one that caregivers can explain to younger children.

I wish that more films of this kind were commonly made. It is a reminder of the sweetness of childhood and the importance of persistence of qualities of friendship, connection, and groundedness as one grows and needs to include in the balance responsibilities of adulthood. The Pooh characters were lovely and I found Ewan McGregor's role memorable, though I wish that the wife and daughter's roles were a bit more dimensional. I recommend the film to children (probably six and above) and adults with any connection to Winnie the Pooh or to children.

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