“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” Fred Rogers
Cynical Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is known for his investigative journalism. He uncovers details about hard-fought issues and exposes the truth. He takes people down. He’s also just become a Dad and is, along with his wife Andrea, attempting to navigate his way around the new task of parenthood. Assigned to interview beloved Children’s TV host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), Lloyd huffs at the idea – he doesn’t do puff pieces.
Begrudgingly told to accept, however, Lloyd heads to Pittsburgh to meet Mister Rogers. What starts off as two men from differing backgrounds with different views of the world soon becomes the beginnings of a friendship based on kindness, forgiveness and everything it means to be human.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood may not have any big blockbuster action but it has a lot of heart. I’m positive we can find a little bit of all of us in Lloyd Vogel, whether it’s his cynicism, skepticism or general cranky outlook. We’ve all been there. What we’ve all maybe not had, but should have, is the kind help of Mister Rogers. His efforts to offer kindness wherever possible are breathtaking but it really shouldn’t be. We should all be more like Mister Rogers. That’s maybe the point.
There’s a scene when Mister Rogers talks directly to LLoyd asking him to contemplate who he’s grateful for in his life, then the camera pans to Rogers staring straight at the audience making you contemplate the question personally. It’s such a simple, yet powerful method, bringing us even further into the story.
While that may sound a little hokey, there’s a reality to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood that knows that life isn’t that simple. We all can’t just smile and put on a happy face. But we can try. We could all do with being kinder to our fellow neighbour. It’s even something that the famous Fred Rogers has to work at.
A lot has been said about Tom Hank’s performance as the famed Mister Rogers and so there should be. There’s an air and grace to Fred that can seemingly only be played by someone of Tom’s caliber. Little has been said, however, of the performance from Tom’s co-star Matthew Rhys. Broken, honest and heartfelt, Matthew deserves as much praise as the Award nominated Hanks.
Taking the construct of an actual Episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, there’s a framework for Lloyd’s story to be told but, for me personally, the slightly more surreal aspects only brought you out of the human struggle at the heart of the story. It reminded you that this was a film, an idea, rather than highlighting Lloyd’s issues in a more naturalistic, and potentially more heartbreaking, way.
In amongst a troubling world, it really was a joy to see a film that celebrates people and offers a positive perspective on helping others. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is bubbling with a life and vibrancy that perfectly matches that of Fred Rogers himself. You’ll struggle to not get drawn in and find yourself not only smiling once the credits roll, but also humming the theme song for the days that follow. If only we could all have had Fred Rogers as our neighbour.
For those hungry for more of Mister Rogers’ knowledge check out this Parade article.
By Jordan Barrett