We all have a little innocence of ‘Pooh Bear’ left in us

The “chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff” is making its way back into the hearts of movie-watchers. Though, if you’re like me, Winnie the Pooh has never left. 

I’ve always loved Pooh Bear. There’s something about the honey-loving, friend-gathering bear that has always stuck with me. So much so, in fact, that when my husband and I were dating and I learned that he loved honey and was well-known in his family for giving the best hugs, his affectionate nickname immediately became Pooh.

“Christopher Robin” opens with an homage to the ending scene of “The House at Pooh Corner”: a farewell party for the young boy, about to set off to boarding school. The menagerie from the Hundred Acre Wood are reminders of a child who has loved his toys, who has spent hours holding and positioning them. These aren’t the colorful animals well-known from the Disney cartoons; they are worn, faded and threadbare. The opening segment ends with the youthful Christopher’s promise to never forget his friends, a promise that Pooh Bear takes to heart.

As the years go by, the film juxtaposes Christopher’s life alongside the life of the Hundred Acre Wood. As the young boy is forced to grow up – to become “the man of the house,” marry and enlist in World War II – viewers watch the overgrowth of the forested land of Christopher’s imagination. As his childhood slips away from him, so too do the grounds of “the enchanted neighborhood of Christopher’s childhood days.”

In answer to the question of what happens to the beloved boy after the final pages of A.A. Milne’s fourth volume in his Pooh Bear series, “Christopher Robin” paints an adult who was forced to lose touch with his childhood, first by his father’s death and then by the trauma of the war. In losing his childhood, Christopher also lost his sense of self. In giving over to his father’s demands and then his country’s demands, we’re left with a man who finally succumbs to the demands of his job, blindly following his company’s orders, regardless of the toll it takes on his family.

Yet, remaining beneath the surface of the workaholic is a heart that truly cares. Ewan McGregor’s take on Christopher Robin demonstrates the pain he encounters with each distancing action from his wife and daughter.

At this exact moment, Pooh Bear also finds himself isolated in the Hundred Acre Wood. He resolves to find Christopher Robin in London, and we are reminded of Christopher’s heart – though not at first. Christopher is not particularly happy to see his old friend and vents his anger, while Pooh innocently questions Christopher’s briefcase and his focus on his work. 

In reality, we realize that Christopher’s calculations are working to save the jobs of hundreds of employees. He still cares.

The movie, of course, moves into the story of reconciliation: Christopher’s reconciliation with Pooh Bear and with his family. Such a reconciliation can only happen when Christopher recalls the joy, creativity and imagination of his childhood. A balance in all things seems to be the film’s mantra.

The review in “Time” mentioned that “Christopher Robin” was a movie that you didn’t know you needed. It’s a movie that resonates with everyone – we’ve all been in positions where we find ourselves ignoring what matters most. “Christopher Robin” reminds us to slow down, to recall ourselves as youngsters content with doing nothing, and to remember that even if we’re a “bear with little brains,” we still have big hearts.

Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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