In a world with violence, uncertainty, sadness, and confusion, it can be difficult to find heroes in our lives to help guide in being our best selves. And, as it happens, there are very few people who demonstrate enough fortitude and patience to confidently be those heroes, even if they don’t view themselves as one. Fortunately for us, we have Mister Rogers.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood focuses on a precise moment in time when Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) is being profiled for an article in Esquire magazine. The writer of that article, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), has gained a reputation for being confrontational, jaded, and, generally, not well-liked by the people he comes into contact with. And, when he’s given this assignment, it turns out that Fred Rogers was the only person willing to be interviewed by Vogel due to this earned reputation.
To Vogel, there is no way that Rogers is as good as he appears to be. He’s playing a character on television, after all, and so there has to be something wrong with him when he’s not that character. For Vogel, however, meeting Rogers couldn’t have come at a more pivotal moment in his life. As a new father, Lloyd’s own father is trying to reconnect after a long absence. It’s hard to blame Lloyd, of course, as the circumstances around his father’s absence are damning, and it’s understandable why he feels the way he does. But is it doing him any good?
Tom Hanks offers a memorable and sweet portrayal as Fred Rogers, and it’s difficult to imagine anybody else in this role. To be very clear, this is not a movie about Mister Rogers — although he is a central part of it. Instead, this movie is about the lasting impact Rogers has had through his words and actions. It won’t be a surprise when Hanks receives nominations for his work.
Matthew Rhys gives a heartfelt and anguished performance. As Lloyd Vogel, Rhys demonstrates the lessons he’s learning from Rogers and how to use them to change his outlook on life. Ultimately, he comes out as a different man, and this is where the real story lies. Vogel is based on Tom Junod, who wrote Can You Say…Hero? for Esquire in 1998 and formed a relationship with Rogers until his death in 2003.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a movie for the whole family, and it’s another way to celebrate the impact and legacy of Fred Rogers. There isn’t enough kindness and empathy in our world today, so this story helps to fill that void just a little bit more. As younger audiences continue to be exposed to who Mister Rogers was, and why he’s essential, we’ll all be better off.