Hannah Parker reviews the new film documenting the creation of our beloved bear, Winnie the Pooh and his adventures…
One of the most memorable franchises as a child is Winnie The Pooh (1924). The story of a young boy and his bunch of animal friends embarking on plenty of adventures. Through the eyes of an innocent and naive child, these stories are real. As we grow up, we realise these beautifully uplifting and happy tales are of a young boy and his imagination.
Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) explores the story behind Christopher Robin and his forest friends. It’s a much more solemn tale of a man’s struggle with post-traumatic stress following the Great World War. This mental health condition not only causes A. A. Milne to find living in the hustle and bustle of the west end difficult, but it also effects his relationship with his son.
The man given the task of recreating this complex and intense character is Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 and 2, Ex Machina). His performance is one of absolute inspiration for any aspiring actors. He’s playing a character that could easily be unlikable, and yet somehow makes us care. We see his panic attacks when a balloon pops or a bright light comes on and we understand. We see a glimmer of a smile when he spends some quality time with his son and our hearts warm. We see his wife treating him unkindly and we begin to dislike her. Mental illness is often showed in unflattering lights in TV shows and films, but this movie gives a true and honest insight into the daily life of a person suffering from PTSD.
He’s playing a character that could easily be unlikable, and yet somehow makes us care.
Key trends from statistics by Samaritans prove just how prevalent suicide by men still is in 2017. Their stats showed that the highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 40–44. There is still a stigma surrounding mental health, in particular with men, that you’re viewed as weak if you admit you need some kind of support or help. In this particular film, it seems A. A. Milne struggled to find any support or help other than his friend who had also experienced the war. He suffered in silence, even hiding his illness from his wife.
However, just like many mental health conditions, it didn’t effect him every minute of every day. It would creep up on him at unexpected times. So, it wasn’t just 109 minutes of a melancholic man shuffling his feet around the countryside. We see the relationship with his son, Christopher Robin (AKA Billy Moon) turn from almost-strangers, to best friends. Their relationship grows from their equally lavish imaginations, and spending days in the outdoors creating their own stories and adventures. This is essentially where A. A. Milne’s inspirations for Winnie the Pooh comes from.
The film is a true depiction of the stiff upper lip that Brits are often forced to live with. Milne often talks about his hatred towards war, his disbelief that it won’t happen again, and his passion for trying to end war for good. But, no one wants to listen. They simply want to forget that it happened and carry on dunking biscuits in their tea. Low and behold, war breaks out for a second time during the film and Christopher Robin himself goes to serve.
The movie gives a refreshing take on mental health, especially from a man’s point of view. It lets us into the most personal of moments, it helps us to understand the episodes of pure panic, anxiety and depression. It also highlights this ridiculous stigma around men’s mental health, and also the absurd way in which Brits aren’t allowed to be angry or upset at the world. We aren’t allowed to mull over something that’s effected us negatively. We’re pressured and expected to just move on. What an unhealthy and unhappy way to live.
But, the film also showcases just how important imagination is. It takes us away from the troubles of real life, it helps us to expand our minds, and it brings us closer to those we choose to imagine with. Imagination doesn’t change the world and we aren’t allowed to have any when we’re adults. But the truth is, imagination is a magical thing that we as humans should never lose.