• Libby Briggs

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood review – not all heroes wear capes, some wear cardigans

To the rest of the world, Fred Rogers’s name might not make heads turn or ears prick up, but from the 60s the late 2000s, his words of wisdom and compassion could be heard in any US household where there might be kids running around. His TV series ‘Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood’ inspired children all across the country and helped them cope with friendship, their feelings, and even heavier stuff such as death and war. As Marielle Heller’s touching tribute to the children’s TV presenter shows us, however, his life and legacy moved even the most broken adults.

Wholesome as it is, with Fred’s puppet friend Daniel and his unchallenged compassion for all thing human, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is just as heartbreaking as it is heart-warming. Based on the real-life article by Tom Junod, ‘Can You Say…Hero?’, it follows the cynical journalist, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and his life-changing encounter with the star.

Lloyd’s hard-hitting journalism style clashes with Fred’s loving nature, all the while Lloyd himself struggles with being a new father and forgiving his own. He’s unwillingly taken under Fred’s wing and encouraged to dig deep into his own childhood – as are we. Like Lloyd himself, you find yourself listening and accepting Fred’s messages of love as gospel; his words are both private and universal. Despite the main character’s own particularly tragic story, Heller reminds us throughout that everyone can somehow find comfort through talking to someone, whether it be a children’s TV presenter or a loved one.

Tom Hanks was the only right choice to play such a beloved icon with his reputation as the ‘nicest guy in Hollywood’. The character’s kindness and benevolence are captured wonderfully with just a soft voice and gentle smile and Hanks is transformed into what we can all only assume to be a saint.

“You love broken people, like me.”
“I don’t think you are broken.”

Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys as Fred and Lloyd

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is not only a unique and moving homage to a much-loved man of knowledge and compassion but a nuanced lesson to individuals about humanity. If you were hoping for a biopic, this isn’t the film for you as we don’t get much detail into his life, but more so the footprints his teachings left on others. However, the tenderness Hanks brings to the character and Heller’s ability to make the audience reflect on themselves is unmissable.

Written by Libby Briggs

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures

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