Review of 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood'

beautiful_day.jpg “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” begins with an episode of “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” where child television entertainer Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) reveals a board containing pictures of people important to him. Revealing a picture of the bloodied face of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) we are told his story. Lloyd is a cynical magazine writer tasked with writing a short “fluff piece” about Rogers. He quickly learns that in real life Rogers is exactly as he appears on the screen - A kind and considerate man who sincerely cares for everyone, particularly those who are the most troubled. Lloyd is one of these having unresolved issues with his estranged father (Chris Cooper) who Lloyd accuses of having abandoned his family prior to the death of his mother. As Rogers talks with Lloyd he encourages him to open up about his feelings and resolve them constructively but at the same time we learn more about Rogers' philosophy.

This seems a bit like an extended therapy session but is quite a bit more. Most Americans (and Canadians) will have grown up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and will find this film deeply nostalgic with it's witty take on various aspects the show: The slow, deliberate way that Rogers would talk, the topics discussed, the show's sets (the style of which is used to show the various locations in which the film is set), and the characters (including Rogers' familiar puppets). For others the film will be somewhat more of an enigma as they get up to speed. Regardless, what becomes clear here is Rogers' caring nature that rubs off onto everyone he meets with never a hostile word spoken about him. Hanks does an admirable job portraying Rogers seriously risking parody for a man with such a distinctive personality. Every (considered) minute he is on the screen he compels the viewer with his performance. Rhys is also wonderful as the tough-nosed life cynic who is deeply touched by the compassion of Rogers though his conversion is, perhaps, a bit too sudden to be entirely convincing. Doubtless there will be many a teary eye while watching this film.

The premise of the film in slipping back and forth between reality and an actual episode of the television show is inspired and really elevates this from a simple biopic though it does occasionally drift into fantasy including an odd scene where Lloyd becomes puppet-sized on the film. However I think this is really part of the charm of the film, lightening the tone of what could have been quite a heavy character study, and providing a nostalgic smile for those familiar with Rogers.

An amazing and warm film of one of the most gentle and kind personalities…on television and off. A film that will touch your soul.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2020-03-01

Directed by: Marielle Heller

Studio: Big Beach Films

Year: 2019

Length: 109 minutes

Genre: Melodrama