Monday, June 11

Won’t You Be My Neighbor Review

Won’t You Be My Neighbor 

Dir: Morgan Neville

Contrary to popular belief Fred Rogers, the sweater wearing voice of positivity behind the beloved public broadcasting system show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, was not an Army sniper or drill instructor who hid tattoos under his long sleeve cardigans. Mr. Rogers was instead an ordained minister and strong advocate for media as a vessel for learning and understanding for young children. It was job suited for a specific individual, someone who could find the sun on a cloudy day. Fred Rogers was exactly that and so much more.

Director Morgan Neville takes an in-depth look at the man, the myth, and ultimately the legend known as Fred Rogers in the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”. The filmmaker talks to nearly everyone still alive that knew Mr. Rogers; whether cast members who share insight into the process behind the children’s television show, the crew who discuss the few occasions Rogers was cranky on set, and his family who tell stories of a man who cared deeply about children and the influence society had on their development. It brings about the melancholy but also some truly touching moments of humanity at its very best. 

It’s difficult trying to portray a man who, no matter how much extensive digging the director provides, functions with all the best intentions and rarely engages in actions that would be detrimental to his character. It’s a fantastic character analysis that displays how and why Rogers was so passionate about building a television show for children. Even more intriguing are the behind the scenes moments when we see Mr. Rogers struggle with the changing social climate in America, whether the issue of race relationships, violence against public officials that impacted the U.S. significantly, or the general negativity that exists with the passage of time. In one of the many affecting scenes in the film Rogers discusses assassination through one of the puppet characters from the show. It’s a heartwarming scene that handles a difficult and tragic issue with innocence and empathy. 

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” does a great job of providing the viewer with an analysis of a man who simply cared deeply about media education for children. Fred Rogers was deliberate in his process, slowing the often fast paced nature of television aimed at children to recognize the power of silence, self reflection, and the ability to process information without stringent time restraints. It’s quite beautiful watching the many moments over the course of Mr. Rogers’ life on screen take place, regardless of what was going on in the world the goal was always to provide an educational program for kids. “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” did just that. For those that grew up with Fred Rogers helping make sense of the world, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” will be your new feel good movie.

Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

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