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.

The reasonable person assumption principle

Thought bubbleHow would I respond when my sister is really grumpy and snaps at me for dropping the silverware? Am I going to tell myself that she’s a horrible sister and it would be better to stay away? Or would  I guess that she  had had a tough day at work and a horrible headache?

Naturally I would take the charitable route and realize that there was probably a good explanation when she seemed a little unreasonable.

If a friend at work was gruff and short with me I might try to find it what’s up…  it was not his normal self.

The same attitude is deserved by a stranger. What is different between someone you don’t know and that friend at work? They may just be the neighbor you haven’t met yet.

The Reasonable Person Assumption Principle asserts that people are in general reasonable. Seemingly unreasonable behavior reasonably could have an explanation that isn’t evident but understandable.

The distracted call with the insurance company might have reached someone in the process of adopting two children in a very difficult situation. Another driver was rude because they were on the way to a wedding in an unfamiliar town.

“It isn’t personal.” “How would you like to be treated.” “You’ll have your turn.”

I don’t know what the next person is facing. When I am having a rough time, I hope my failures will not lead to scorn from those who are looking in without seeing my better days.

A civil discourse with people of a different faith, political side, race or national origin can begin when I realize that they are reasonable in the the same way that my sister and co-worker are.

I believe people in general are reasonable. Howevern it’s hard for me to see that when I am sick or angry,  tired or hungry. If I want to help things build up instead off fall apart I need to look beyond my own weaknesses to look for the strength and hope, whenever it may sit.

Easter, Passover and refugees

A green thought bubbleThe coming of Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.

Easter is intimately tied to Passover. Easter is a celebration of deliverance for Christians.

Exodus 22:21 admonishes “Do not wrong or oppress any outsiders living among you, for there was a time when you lived as outsiders in the land of Egypt.” (The Voice)

The outsiders of Exodus fleeing Pharaoh’s Egypt are no different than the outsiders fleeing wars and oppression today. Uncounted refugees are fleeing their own form of Pharaoh’s Egypt.

America can wrong and oppress them if it chooses. Our elected leaders appear to be at the front of the line….