Film Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

A movie reelI believe the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was successful. It led me to think about how I can apply Fred Rogers’ lessons to my life. It showed how I might be a better person, one who is honorable and positive.

This story about the children’s television host Fred Rogers is not biographical. In other words, it’s not a biopic like 2018’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This present film is inspired by an article in Esquire magazine, Can You Say…Hero?, written by Tom Junod and published in November 1998. The movie imagines how Rogers might have interacted with the journalist as Junod researched the article.

Early in his interactions with Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), the film’s version of the Esquire journalist, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is cynical. He wonders how much of Fred Rogers is real and whether his kindness is a performance and not sincere. The question isn’t directly answered. Viewers can watch the film and come to their own conclusions. Fred’s persistence in developing a relationship with the writer changes the journalist’s attitude. He ends up writing a positive article that doesn’t match his reputation for writing biting celebrity pieces.

One central conflict in the movie is between Lloyd Vogel and his father Jerry Vogel (Chris Cooper). The film follows the Vogels as they develop a relationship with Rogers. Fred Rogers presents the Vogel’s conflict as an opportunity to apply forgiveness. Despite his positive and prayerful attitude, Rogers doesn’t try to force the Vogels to reach a picture-book reconciliation.

In this film, Fred Rogers portrays an alternative view of what it means to be a man. One doesn’t need to be hard and rigid. You can care about other people yet stay true to yourself. Fred Rogers is persistent in meeting with the journalist, but they connect on Roger’s terms. Through that effort, the film shows that the humanity of both of them is worthy of honor.

This movie had many strong emotional moments. It is a film that I want to see again.

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