A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks gives a perfect performance as Mr. Rogers in this beautiful little movie that isn’t quite a biopic, but isn’t exactly fictional either.

The movie opens with an impeccable recreation of Mr.Rogers’ neighborhood the beloved children’s show that ran from 1968 until 2001. The movie get every detail right, the music, the camera movement, the little miniatures that make up the neighborhood. Then Mr Rogers himself walks in. Now it’s clearly Tom Hanks playing Mr. Rogers, but the warmth, the compassion, and the aura is pure Rogers. For a moment I am five years old again watching this kind man talk about feelings. It’s like being wrapped in a blanket from my youth. Mr. Rogers introduces us to his new friend Lloyd played by Matthew Rhys. Lloyd is hurting on the inside and Mr. Rogers wants to tell us about it.

Lloyd is a jaded and cynical magazine writer with a challenging past, a father he hates, and a newborn son that he doesn’t know how to relate to. Lloyd is assigned to write a profile on Fred Rogers for Esquires heroes issue. Lloyd goes to Pittsburgh to interview Fred. Fred asks more questions than he answers and he begins to change Lloyd with his innate goodness.

The movie does a wonderful job of not deifying Rogers. He doesn’t like to be considered a saint or a hero. He’s just a man who loves people. He cares deeply about everyone. That honest, earnest sincerity is baked into every layer of this movie. it is a movie that quietly affirms the dignity of every living person just like the real Mr. Rogers did.

There are so many wonderful moments in this film. A full minute of total silence as Fred asks Lloyd and the audience to think of all the people whose love made you possible. A moment that should be saccharine, but turns out to be deeply moving in which Fred and Lloyd rude a subway. Fred is recognized by some kids and soon the entire car is singing his theme song. It sounds hokey, but it’s s beautiful moment.

The story with Lloyd and his family could’ve also been a series of played out cliches, but here it feels honest and genuine if a little melodramatic at times.

The movie is not a biopic of Fred Rogers. It touches on his life and who he is, but importantly it’s about the effect that he had on the lives of those around him. His kindness and decency made everyone he touched a better happier person. This movie made me a happier person.

Tom Hanks is so good in this movie. He is truly wonderful in this role. He perfectly nails Rogers’ mannerisms and inflections that we all know so well, but he also creates a real performance filled with rich details and subtlety. The way he looks and especially the way he listens is just magical. Watch the way Hanks listens to his costars in this movie, it’s a masterclass.

It’s not a perfect movie. It is full of minor flaws, but the movie made me happy and made me feel a little bit more optimistic. That warmth and goodness I felt totally washes away the negative aspects of the film. It is an antidote to the world around us. Everyone should watch this and the stellar documentary about Rogers Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Both films show a man who lived by example. A Presbyterian minister, Fred Rogers believe that the best sermon is the one you live everyday. Let’s all be a little bit better.

It is my cup of tea. A

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