By Paul Spring
The new movie following Mr. Rogers is a wonderful work of art. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is everything you did not know you needed in a movie. The film opens with Mr. Rogers’s traditional singing as he walks into his house and puts on his iconic sweater. But slowly the movie progresses to plot and depth that you would not expect from what is presented as a “feel-good” Mr. Rogers flick. For being marketed as a movie about Mr. Rogers, it is actually less about the kind neighbor himself and more about the impact others feel from being around him.
The most important thing to know before seeing this movie is that it is emotionally charged. Unsurprisingly, the film asks viewers to deal with their own feelings as much as Mr. Rogers asks other characters to deal with theirs. Tom Hank’s Mr. Rogers reaches out from the screen and engages with each viewer, just as the hero did in his beloved television series. The movie ends up being more and more about each individual in the theater listening to the words on the screen rather than focusing so much on Mr. Rogers or even the interviewer that acts as the film’s protagonist. Every scene is incredible, because through it all, you are presented with the beauty and capacity of human emotions and yet are asked to view it from your unique perspective.
Many of us grew up watching Mr. Rogers, but I think a lot of his messages have been forgotten since his show. This film reiterates the show’s original purpose, to give children a way to reasonably deal with the wide breadth of feelings that they might feel. Tom Hanks takes the time to re-explore feelings of anger, sadness, and even happiness. But this movie is not just a retelling of the old show, because the focus is no longer solely on kids. The film asks the adults in the audience to remember the show they used to love and remember what Mr. Rogers said in it. As adults, we still have a responsibility to know how to handle all of our emotions, good and bad. That is why we are presented with so many opportunities in the movie to experience empathy, frustration, and joy. Just like Mr. Rogers in real life, the film practices what it preaches and sets the standard we should follow.
The tagline of the film is “we could all use a little kindness” and that is absolutely portrayed. In the midst of a confusing world full of people who are less than perfect, Tom Hank’s Mr. Rogers shows us that kindness goes a long way. It is important to remember that we each are unique and enjoyed for who we are, in the words of Mr. Rogers: “there’s no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.”