Won't You Be My Neighbor? review
I get the joy of talking about one of my personal heroes, Fred Rogers, the acclaimed host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. This is a man who, even though he was looking to become a minister, dedicated his life to educating and entertaining children. He covered a variety of topics from going to the doctor, eating healthy, divorce, death, and even the fear of war. While something like Sesame Streethad a lot of colorful characters and production value, Mister Rogers Neighborhoodwas simple and embraced the fact it was more low key. Fred Rogers had the simple goal of treating children like they were people; people that need to be treated seriously.
I'll admit that I don't have the same nostalgia for Fred Rogers like a lot of people do. I think had my parents watched it with me (as he originally intended), I would have gotten something that I would have understood as a five year old. It wasn't until college in which I came to see him as a calming voice in a world of chaos. His material may have been meant for children, but he wanted everyone to embrace the notion that kindness can make a difference. His philosophy is on full display in the documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor?.
The movie focuses not only on Fred Rogers and the production of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, but it dwells deep into his personality, revealing that unlike a lot of actors that are just playing a character, he was genially just as nice as he was on camera. He was dedicated to ensuring that he could use the tool of television to "talk" to children and use his calm demeanor to ensure someone they could trust. He was also compassionate, making friends out of his cast, crew, and guest stars like Yo-Yo Ma.
The documentary also looks into his passion for fighting unjust situations from race segregation to Congress nearly cutting the budget for public television. Unlike a lot of activists, he remained in the same mindset from his show, thinking that there were more good people then bad. Several people, including his widow Joanne Rogers, his adult children, crew, and other celebrities recount about how shocking it was to have someone like Fred Rogers who really was how he was on television. It tackles how critics have said that Mister Rogers Neighborhoodhad an entitled negative effect on Millennials and counters them.
Won't You Be My Neighbor? Is probably one of the first documentaries in a while to make me feel good rather then bad. The movie was made by Morgan Neville, who also made the Oscar-winning, 20 Feet from Stardom. He puts the same amount of passion for this kind man that he did for the backup singers. He paints a beautiful portrait of a man who was a saint, without making it too preachy. I think that I got more then anything was that Fred Rogers could have been capable of a lot of things, but went into an area that a lot of people are scared to tackle: teaching young kids.
I too try to go through life, hoping that there are more good people then bad. Even with the negative political divide that has plagued the media, this movie was able to convince me once more that no matter how bad a situation is, helping someone can always make you feel good. I almost felt like that I should be doing more to help others. What kind of movie can give you that feeling with the need to do good?
I'll give this five cardigan sweaters out of five. I highly recommend that everyone watch Won't You Be My Neighbor?, even if you don't have children. If anything, this is really for those that grew up watching Mister Rogers Neighborhoodand had always wanted to know more. While it is rated PG-13, I'd still recommend this as a family watch. I think Fred Rogers would have wanted that. Check it out, and enjoy this beautiful neighborhood of good people.