‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ captures Mr. Rogers’ essence

Illustration by Alexandria Moore.

Illustration by Alexandria Moore.

“Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” is a television classic due to the warming presence of its host Fred Rogers.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is an exploration of how one man’s journey to understand a cultural figure ends up becoming a conciliation on how he can better his life for his new family and rebuild broken bonds with people in his life.

An “Esquire” writer is assigned to do a profile story on Mr. Rogers.  He assumes this will be an easy job, but his interactions with the television personality begin to change him in ways he least expects.

Loosely based on an exposé written by Tom Junod, “A Beautiful Day” isn’t a full-fledged biographical film, but rather a fictionalized story based on a real person.  The scenario of a writer being assigned to interview Rogers is based on real events, but the character’s struggles are fictional.

Despite the presence of Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, the film isn’t focused on him but instead Lloyd Vogel, the “Esquire” writer.  

Lloyd is a man with problems.  He and his wife have just had their first child, but Lloyd is more committed to his work than supporting his family. This combined with his troubled history with his father becomes the driving force of the film.

It is when Lloyd spends time with Mr. Rogers that his personal problems get put into the spotlight.  Every one of us has problems we choose not to face, whether it involves things like family, marriage or whatnot, and we wish someone like Mr. Rogers would come along as a guiding voice to help us confront these burdens.

On the subject of Mr. Rogers, Tom Hanks is phenomenal as the children’s television star.  Like Vogel, the viewer initially assumes it’s just Tom Hanks as an old man, but the actor’s performance highlights the warmth and positivity the real Fred Rogers was known for.

The film also frames the plot as if it is an episode of Mr. Rogers’ show. There are cuts between the drama unfolding onscreen and back to the famous Mr. Rogers set, which helps move the plot along.  Additionally, whenever it does transition to the show, the aspect ratio brilliantly switches from the 16:9 to 4:3.

Brilliant is the best way to summarize “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”  In a world where people are inundated with news about death, disease and destruction along with personal obstacles, we could use someone like Mr. Rogers to let us know everything will be alright.

This film is an affectionate tribute to the man and the show he created that tells a compelling, relatable story.  When the cinema gets inundated with mindless blockbusters asking for your wallet, make a change and go see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” instead.