A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood ★★★★½

This is not a film about Fred Rogers.

This is a film about the art of letting go.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not unlike an intricate music box, packed with simple moments that cut to the heart of what Mr. Rogers represented for decades of children. Tom Hanks may not resemble America's beloved saint, nor may he sound like him, but it works. He's not playing Fred Rogers; he's playing the values that he espoused everyday for young audiences. The film, which is not a biopic at all, is structured like an extended episode of the show, complete with a deeply emotional introduction and lovely transitions between locations that evoke the miniature city seen on the show.

Hanks is brilliant in the role, but he's surrounded by an excellent cast. Matthew Rhys is superb as Lloyd Vogel, the more grounded and slightly cynical journalist that Hanks plays off of, and the stock roles of Vogel's family are played to perfection. The central conflict that drives the story is handled with care by both Rogers and the script, and it finds a truly beautiful way to both show how one man learned to let go of all the hate and anger that festered in his heart. It also invites the audience to do the same thing. During one scene late in the second act, Vogel and Rogers are sitting in a Chinese restaurant. Rogers asks him to think silently for one minute about all the people who love. The other customers and restaurant employees notice, and they also participate in the silence. The soundtrack drops, and the film goes quiet. At this point, Mr. Rogers stares directly into the camera for at least twenty seconds, inviting you to join in on the healing.

For someone who's been on a journey for the whole of 2019 that involved learning how to let go of my painful past, it was more than enough to bring tears to my eyes. For a moment, Mr. Rogers made everything alright. And that's the beauty of this film: it has a special kind of magic to it, one that can help to heal someone who might feel a little broken.

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