Forgiveness. Humanity. Love. Understanding. These words seem very simple, yet they were anything but to Fred Rogers. Fred Rogers was a man with infinite patience, but the point is he was a flesh and blood human being who was fallible just like the rest of us on this planet. Brought to life in this masterful adaptation inspired by a Tom Junod Esquire article recounting his experience with American/s most treasured TV host.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood offers audiences the real pleasure of a signature Tom Hanks performance. Technically perfect, Hanks’ as Fred Rogers finds adult truths in the deep wisdom of childhood. After all, children are the purest, most honest human beings there are. They are born without bias, hatred or judgement and are all the reasons we gravitated toward him on our black and white screens of yesteryear.
Director Marielle Heller sets Fred Rogers’ irresistible charm and childlike demeanor against the immovable cynicism of a New York magazine writer – Lloyd Vogel. Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is assigned to write a profile of Rogers, whom he long ago dismissed as a sappy and too good to be true.
However, when Rogers exclaims during one of his sketches, “There’s no normal life that is free from pain,” he slowly sees the pain inside this hardened, cynical man who has shut himself off from a lifetime of unresolved conflicts with his father (Chris Cooper) and wife (Susan Kelechi Watson). Eventually, the shallow profile he was planned to write turns out to be a momentous and meaningful encounter for them both.
The most prolific moment of the film is when Mr. Rogers ask Lloyd to engage in one minute of silence and the looks directly into the camera as if to invite the audience along for the ride. We all move at such a clipped pace that taking just one minute to stop and enjoy is truly a lesson to be absorbed daily and how ironic that it takes a film to remind us. A lesson that sometimes only great cinema can achieve.
Matthew Rhys performance is full of just as much complexity as Lloyd’s life and is couple with the breakout performance of Susan Kelechi Watson, proving that her talent definitely needs to continue beyond the small screen hit ‘This Is Us.’ Both actors turn in layered, heart-wrenching performances. However, Chris Cooper is no slouch as the Dad whose life has finally slipped back on track just as he begins to run out of time.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is just that…beautiful. It will remind you that there is always room for forgiveness and humanity – no matter what.