I feel like the mark of a truly exceptional film is that it not only entertains the audience but also teaches them something or provokes increased thought. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood accomplished this in spades, reminding viewers of the art of kindness.
Set in 1998, the film centers on Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), an acclaimed journalist at Esquire. Lloyd has a troubled relationship with his father, Jerry Vogel (Chris Cooper), who walked out on Lloyd’s mother. He continually rebuffs Jerry’s efforts to make amends, and it starts to drive a wedge between Lloyd and his wife, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), who just gave birth to a son named Gavin (Jordan, Naomi, and Zoey Harsh).
Lloyd, having earned a reputation as an abrasive reporter who writes negatively of his interview subjects, is assigned by his editor to interview Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) for a brief article about heroes. Lloyd hesitantly travels to Pittsburgh to interview Rogers. Throughout the interview, Rogers brushes off the concept of his fame and shows concern for Lloyd’s nose injury; in the process, finding out about Lloyd’s complicated relationship with Jerry. Unconvinced of the genuineness of Rogers’ kind nature, Lloyd tries to expose him as a fraud, but his attempts fall flat. Lloyd interviews him again but gets nowhere. Meanwhile, they grow closer, and Rogers counsels Lloyd to find it in his heart to forgive his father.
Fresh off the heels of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the 2018 documentary exploring Fred Rogers’ life, this isn’t a straight biographical film, but the plot is loosely based on a 1998 article Can You Say…Hero? by Tom Junod, which was published in Esquire.
To say I enjoyed A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the understatement of the century. I loved it to pieces. The story, wrought with emotion and compelling, provides an intriguing snapshot into the legacy of Mister Rogers. Tom Hanks was absolutely perfect casting as Mr. Rogers. He delivered his lines flawlessly and with such depth. His cadence was unmistakably Rogersonian, almost surreal to watch.
In this modern era, our days are often filled with harshness, bloodshed, and overall depraved indifference to humanity. The lessons taught by Mister Rogers imbued with goodness and optimism remind us all of the value of kindness and loving one another for who they are.
I give A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood five out of five stars.