3 Stars – Wholesome
The fantasy world of a child is resplendent with special friends. These friends are often stuffed with the projected courage, simplicity, and love that is in hearty supply within the child. They are also representative of the child’s fears, sorrows, disappointments and frustrations. Perhaps the best known of these are the stuffed animals of Christopher Robin. Created by author A.A. Milne and named after his own son Christopher Robin Milne, the fantasy of these Winnie-the-Pooh stories takes on a whole new level in this modern adaptation of the tale. Written by a collection of authors this version is brought to the screen by Marc Forster who also directed such films as Finding Neverland and World War Z.
Though the plot is formulaic with Christopher as a young teen (Orton O’Brien) having to leave the 100 acre woods and saying goodbye to his childhood friends in order to enter the world of boarding school, marriage, war, family and business, the journey thankfully takes him full circle back to them. As a husband and father, the mature Mr. Robin (Ewan McGregor) has not so much forgotten his friends of childhood, but no longer values them. This same decision is now starting to permeate all his relationships as his beloved wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and his precious daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) take a back seat to the pressures of business.
The villain in the tale is Giles Winslow (Mark Gatiss), the lazy son of the owner of a large conglomerate for which Mr. Robin works. Winslow is a wealthy, bumbling, privileged man who uses Mr. Robin’s dedication against him. Everything comes to a head when Winslow manipulates Mr. Robin to betray his promise to his wife and daughter deciding not to spend time at the cottage of his childhood with them; The cottage of the 100 acre woods. Sending them off on their own, this is when the adventure begins.
We won’t spoil the unexpected and joyfully humorous antics except to make the obvious statement that the film makes even more directly: Work should never be a substitute for love, or life, and when it so becomes it can steal our laughter and joy. Making a living has a place in this temporary journey we’re all on, but when work becomes the primary purpose, we then begin to misuse the very people with whom we share this journey. It is the journey back for Mr. Robin to becoming once more the imaginative Christopher Robin that not only brings joy into his life but life into his work. Incidentally, don’t miss the similarities of coworker personalities with the childhood friends of Christopher, it adds a delightful parallel humor much like the farmworkers within Dorothy’s land of Oz being her companions on her return home.
- It is easy to make the earning of money, or even work for work’s sake our primary value in this materialistic society. How do you deal with such a false purpose?
- When the film decides to make everyone capable of seeing the living stuffed animals and not just present them as a delusion of an emotional breakdown of Mr. Robin, the film goes from drama to fantasy, from tragedy to comedy. Did you easily make that transition as well or would you have rather seen Christopher discover his childhood sensibilities in reality?
- It is no coincidence that in God’s Ten Commandments, he puts resting from work, the 5th commandment equal to the 7th, not killing anyone. Why do you think that is the case? How does our need to stop work and put God as more worth on the Sabbath, equal our need to not kill someone?