By Joyce Lee (19S06O) and Shervon Lee (19S06A)
Pictures courtesy of Animation Screencaps
A slow-paced Hollywood dramedy revolving around cute, fluffy cartoon characters may seem out of place in a season dominated by adrenaline-pumping action films, but judging from the packed cinema theatre we went to, the investment seems to have paid off. Everyone was desperate for a bit of childhood fantasy in those uncertain times, and the latest movie in the Winnie the Pooh franchise certainly delivered the warm, fuzzy feelings the audience craved.
From the opening scene where Christopher Robin parts with Pooh, with the words, “I’ll remember you till I’m a hundred years old”, to the scene where Pooh reappears in front of a now grown up Christopher and instantly recognises him from his eyes, the movie had no shortage of moments that tug on the heartstrings. Even the washed out, threadbare character designs of Pooh and company served to bring back old memories of playing with stuffed toys and leaving them behind as one grows up. It’s the sweet taste of nostalgia that pervades this movie and turns what may appear to be a generic G-rated film for children into one that all ages can enjoy.
Nostalgia is defined as the wistful desire to return to a former time in one’s life, in this case, to one’s childhood. The titular main character of the movie has what seems like an ideal childhood: free from responsibilities, he spends most of his early days at his family’s countryside cottage, roaming the Hundred Acre Woods with his close-knit group of friends. He gets to live every day in the present, and cites ‘doing nothing’ as his favourite thing to do. However, after Christopher Robin grows up, he starts to embody all the less desirable aspects of adulthood as he is shackled to a stressful job as an efficiency expert at a luggage company, forced to obey an unreasonable employer and estranged from his family.
Those who view their past through rose-tinted lenses may relate to Christopher’s idealised childhood and lament the structure and rigidity that comes with adult responsibilities. In a way, nostalgia is an expression of our desire to be free from such responsibilities, and to experience the fearlessness of childhood again. Growing up, then, is the process of accepting that most of that freedom will have to be sacrificed in order to get ahead. As Christopher’s employer, Giles Winslow Jr. often reminds him, ‘Nothing ever comes from nothing’.
Throughout the film, Christopher constantly struggles with work-life balance, the tension flooding into both his work and his familial environment. His struggle between working hard for his future and taking a breather to soak up the present takes up the entire first half of the movie, from breaking promises of vacation with his family to watching his daughter back in his childhood home. When Pooh reappears to Christopher, it’s as if Christopher has been given the chance to return to his childhood, and Pooh almost seems to be giving him an awakening as to how he was living his life – constantly working and miserable because of it. (Does that sound familiar?)
While planning for the future and earning money are definitely important, we also see how overdoing it can cause fractured relationships and sacrificed moments. We may all be familiar with the concept of being mindful of and living in the ‘now’, but when it comes down to reality, we all need a little reminder. In the midst of our busy and fast-paced society, Christopher Robin offered just that.
Weigh it out: money and material successes or the relationships we forge with our loved ones? In today’s pragmatic society, it is no wonder that people choose wealth over relationships. After all, money does make the world go round. However, it would not do to lose the people around you in the pursuit of wealth. Cliché as it sounds, the bonds you forge stay with you far longer than money ever will. We spend money as quickly as we get it, but trust cannot be ‘spent’ or ‘used’. It remains there for us when we may need them the most. That is what makes friendships so invaluable, so hold on to a good one if it ever appears in your life.
Nostalgia is definitely the key here – it reconciles the various symbols and themes shown throughout the movie. It is evident in the faded colours of the characters, the pencil scratches as the characters are drawn into the book, and the vaguely vignette nature of the scenes. The transition from 2D drawings to the 3D scenes were gracefully done and left us eye-wide in wonder. Christopher Robin’s cinematography and clever weaving of Disney’s past certainly tugged on many heartstrings.
Putting the childhood characters that we have grown up with on the screen was definitely a gamble. However, we will put it out there: they did it well. The original characters shine, but not as brightly, just as the entire movie seemed to be familiar, but slower. Christopher has grown up, just as we have; the characters are no longer his life, or ours.
The takeaways are bittersweet and aplenty. On one hand, we learn to cherish the bonds and relationships we forge, keeping them close to heart, and on the other, to move on and grow up with the times, and to live in the present. After all, we can all learn a little from Pooh, who seems to be the real hero of the movie.
“Today is my favorite day. Yesterday, when it was tomorrow, it was too much day for me.” – Pooh