Review: ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ Honors Mr. Rogers’ Kindness

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COURTESY OF GABBOT VIA FLICKR

Tom Hanks and other cast members of "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" at the 2019 Toronto Film Fest.

By LEV YAKOVLEV, Contributing Writer

As an outsider to an American culture I didn’t have any expectations of this film. I went because I thought Tom Hanks would again play a simple guy who, by being kind and compassionate, will turn out to be much wiser than the rest of us.

However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. What this film is really about is forgiving those who hurt you most. It does a great job of personally involving a viewer in the story and asks serious questions about love and forgiveness.

Set in the early 2000s, the film follows the story of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a national award-winning journalist who holds a serious grudge in his heart against his cheating father. For one of his assignments, he is forced  to do a profile of Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) by his supervisor, which he begrudgingly accepts. At first, Vogel seems very ignorant toward his assignment, but that changes when Mr. Rogers decides to help Vogel overcome his anxieties out of kindness.

Inspired by real events, the film was very successful at portraying the character of Mr. Rogers. Onscreen we see a kind and compassionate person who would always listen to you and will try to help. In the beginning, Mr. Rogers asks Vogel, “What do you think is the most important thing in the world for me right now? To speak on the phone to Lloyd Vogel.” 

In other words, I felt warm inside, as if surrounded by an aura of benevolence and compassion. 

The film is structured in such way that whenever Mr. Rogers talks, it feels like he’s talking not to the characters of the film, but to the audience directly. You feel like a kid watching another episode of Mr Rogers’ show, and that definitely contributes to the atmosphere, because it feels like the film cares about your feelings.

It starts as the intro to the TV show Mr. Rogers used to host, and the movie seems like one big episode. This setup creates a feeling that whenever someone raises a serious question, he is asking you, the audience, about it.

You feel yourself as part of the story, which creates a very strong empathic reaction. During the film, Mr. Rogers asks Vogel to stay silent for a minute and think of all the people who are special in his life. The screen went silent, and I felt like I myself was thinking of those who made me me. 

There is something about silence that inspires you to appreciate the world around you, and if there is anything I learned from this film, it’s  to always look for the best in the people around you. In the immortal words of Mr. Rogers himself, “You’ve made this day a very special day by just you being you.”