Many people today, probably aren’t familiar with the classic children’s show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood (1968-2001). Unless you were born between the 1960s-1990s, you probably have never heard of this show. But Mister Rogers Neighborhood (1968-2001) is one of the most famous public access shows ever created, right up there with Bob Ross. He taught many life lessons that kids should learn and even broke barriers surrounding some topical issues during times where most shows wouldn’t even attempt to address the issues; Issues like race, disability, empathy, forgiveness, violence, the list goes on. What would surprise most people was his kind and gentle nature, as if he and his tv persona were the same person; which, of course, his tv persona wasn’t a facet, but actually Mister Rogers trying to teach kids about life in a positive manner. This is on full display in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019), as his relationship with the protagonist evolves.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) is a true story that plays out like any other Mister Rogers Neighborhood episode that came before, with Mister Rogers (portrayed by Tom Hanks) coming into his humble abode singing the show’s famous intro song and putting on a sweater. It is an awesome way to introduce the main protagonist, Lloyd Vogel (portrayed by Matthew Rhys), and the beginning of his character journey. Vogel is a cynical investigative journalist, who gained a reputation of playing hardball with interviewees. He is assigned to profile the genuine and positive Mister Rogers, while reluctant, he agrees to do so and flys out to Pittsburgh to interview the television host. While working on the profile, Vogel’s absentee father, Jerry (portrayed by Chris Cooper) bursts back into his life looking to make amends. But, Lloyd is still angry at his father for not being there with Vogel’s mother as she died in a hospital bed.
The character dynamic of Mister Rogers and Lloyd is a lot like that of the opposites attract in romantic comedies as their opposing views keep drawing them together. While these two are no romantic couple, they grow a beautiful friendship that is able to break down Vogel’s barriers of anger and grief surrounding his mother’s passing and father’s newfound desire to be in his life. Especially with scenes where Vogel tries to play some “gotcha journalism” with Fred when he begins asking questions about Fred’s personal life and his so-called “temper”. However, Mister Rogers answers respectfully and appreciates a new insight into his own personal life. This upsets Lloyd as he wants to bring Rogers off the pedestal many kids and parents put him on. Another moment that makes me appreciate their friendship is when they are in a restaurant as two people rather than journalist and subject. Rogers tells Vogel about how all the decisions that came before him made Vogel into the man he is today, and that isn’t a bad thing. This completely breaks down the last protective barrier he had repressing all of his sadness and anger and allows for the opportunity, later in the film, for Lloyd to finally forgive his father for abandoning him and his mother.
Not only does this film actually have mature characters and themes, but still finds a way for them to be digestible for kids. They could watch this movie and understand the big themes at hand, along with empathizing with every single character. I also appreciate that the filmmakers paid homage to one of Mister Rogers's most iconic moments whenever he’s in public. In the same restaurant scene I mentioned earlier, Fred approaches Vogel with the idea of 1 minute of silence. This minute would be used to appreciate all who helped us up to that moment in time. Not only is this an impactful moment for Vogel but Rogers looks straight into the camera at the audience, asking us to appreciate right along with them. It is quite a touching scene and possibly is the best moment in the entire movie.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) is both a touching tribute to the beloved Mister Rogers and a perceptive look at forgiveness and kindness. Matthew Rhys is wonderful as Lloyd, attempting poorly to bury his pain surrounding his father, but ultimately finds a way to let go of it with the help of Fred. Tom Hanks is a perfect choice to portray the soft spoken man as he brings out all the qualities we grew to expect of Mister Rogers as well as his imperfections. Like in the last moments of the film we see Fred at the piano in the dark as he bashes all the low keys on the piano, a way to delegate his frustrations and anger. Proving that he is just a human being, we just never saw how he dealt with his negative emotions. Even if you never heard of Mister Rogers Neighborhood (1968-2001), you can’t help but shed a tear of joy by the end of the film.