Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a timely story of kindness
triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer (Emmy® winner Matthew Rhys, 2018 Best Actor in
a Drama Series, The Americans) is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about kindness, love and forgiveness from America’s most beloved neighbor.
The film starts out like any other Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode, his jovial changing of formal jacket to cardigan, the removing of shoes to sneakers, the whole process is a lesson in
getting comfortable and settling in, to soak up new knowledge you may have never known before.
To quote a line from the film “It’s not really about Mister Rogers. It is but…” The movie is a story inspired by real life – about a jaded journalist and his journey towards acceptance of his past
and his future. Inspired by the Esquire Magazine article, “Can You Say…Hero?” by journalist Tom Junod, the movie follows Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Ryhs) as he learns a timely lesson about compassion and
Vogel has to face with his future with his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) and their newborn, while wrestling with his past and learning to forgive his father (Chris Cooper).
Mister Rogers takes a back seat to Lloyd’s family trauma but just as in real life, his wake is mighty. His stillness, his listening, his genuine inquires. These actions seem meaningless, almost
comical at times, but they are a means to an end. The movie relays the message that Mister Rogers is not a saint, but rather works hard on his actions every day, something any of us can do.
Director Mariele Hunter masterfully juggles reality and make-believe—just like on the show—showing Lloyd’s struggles as surreal figments of his imagination to help deal with his problems.
It’s not until the end of the movie that you realize you’ve just been witness to an entire Mister Rogers-type episode on forgiveness. It’s hard to know whether to feel for journalist Lloyd or for
Fred Rogers himself, who has taken on the burden of being a positivity beacon for everyone in the world. Mister Rogers also has his bad days, but he works through it. And we can all appreciate his
love and support for humankind, something that still resonates to this day.
“Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front—and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should
expect of ourselves or anyone else.” – Mister Rogers