Today: May 26, 2024

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

For many non-American audiences Mr. Rogers will not be a familiar name. But across the pond he is a veritable institution of children’s television. And, unlike many UK childrens entertainers, his reputation remained intact to this day, 17 years after his death. A man so loved by children and adults alike many deemed him too perfect. And this is indeed the basis for A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood.

Journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Ryhs) is having a tough time of it. He’s got a new baby and his estranged father (Chris Cooper) has just come back into his life demanding forgiveness for his past mistakes. To make matters worse Vogel is assigned to interview Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) for a “heroes” issue of his magazine. It’s not exactly the hard-hitting journalism Vogel is used to. So when he meets Rogers he is determined the man is too good to be true and sets out to discover the truth behind the on-screen persona. What he unearths is a man who constantly puts others above himself and, despite Vogel’s best efforts, a man who is drawn to the companionship of Vogel.

Director Marielle Heller’s third feature film maintains the tone of her other efforts Diary Of A Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me? That smart ability to create drama with just a slither of dark comedy glimmering through the gathering clouds. A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood is primarily about Vogel with Rogers acting as a sort of Jiminy Cricket like character, that presence to reassure our hero that, despite his thoughts to the contrary he is a good man. But being a good man in a troubled world is difficult. It is a film focussed on forgiveness and letting the past go.

The film is at its most interesting when alluding to Rogers’ own demons, a man we are told by those around him including his wife, who has struggled with the burden of always being a good man. It is alluded to that Rogers’ had issues dealing with his celebrity status, had anger management issues and in particular with his own children. But it is never anything more than hinted at.

The result is Rogers is painted as a saint, and he undoubtedly was a very giving, kind and generous man. Vogel meanwhile, while flawed, is always a man we can see has goodness in his heart. It often feels as if to taint the Rogers’ name, even if just a smidge, would have been sacrilege. So A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood leaves you feeling like it’s a little too warm and cuddly, leaving the slightly darker undertones waving at you from a distance.

A warm, affectionate and timely film about how forgiveness has power and redemption comes in many forms. A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood is soothing comfort of a film that reassures rather than challenges.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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