Release Date: November 22, 2019
Director: Marielle Heller
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Ryss, Chris Cooper
Synopsis: Inspired by a true story, editorial writer Lloyd Vogel is tasked to profile Mr. Rogers amidst personal and family struggles.
Rating: 3.5/4 Stars
[The following review is spoiler-free]
As a child, I watched Mr. Rogers with eager anticipation and wonder awaiting to learn something new and insightful. In cardigan and sneakers, here was a man invested in teaching viewers like me the many intricacies of life with kindness and patience. And with an earnest interest in the learning of processes, I, too, found myself caught up in the same awe Mr. Rogers evoked every single time without fault. In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, that same wonder and awe is captured in full delight.
The story of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood focuses on the life of Lloyd Vogel, a journalist whose reputation is as tough as his questions and hardened outlook on life. Only one person, Fred Rogers, is willing to meet the man for a profile piece on his personal life. Lloyd reluctantly takes on the task of interviewing Fred Rogers and those around him while coming to terms with his own feelings and thoughts regarding self, family, and life in general.
Director Marielle Heller crafts A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with creative love and affection that had me smiling all the way through. Sequences inspired from Mr. Roger’s own show that are mixed into the meta-narrative framework of an episode add whimsical charm and levity to elevate the film from becoming completely derivative of mushy melodrama. Performances from Tom Hanks, whose work here does indeed merit an Oscar nomination, and fellow cast mates breathe life into their characters with much heart and care. It’s in their interactions with one another during seemingly small and thoughtful moments that bring out the main messages and themes at play without relegating itself to becoming overly preachy.
In its end, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood maintains itself as a wonderful and loving tribute to Fred Rogers and all the people impacted by his presence and generosity. Of all the messages brought to light, one remained throughout which is this: we all yearn for acceptance, acknowledgment, and unconditional love. Mr. Rogers reminded us of that sentiment day after day with tender care and genuine honesty. I imagine many who watch the film will have some room for similar reflection, and perhaps, hearts and minds will be lightened, too. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a joyous film with humanity at its core. We all could use a bit of learning and listening for healing and growth. Fred Rogers aimed to teach us so in his warm and consistent invitation to neighborly fellowship each and every day.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is rated PG for strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language.