A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

These are difficult, uncertain days. Anything that can cheer us up is good. And anything that can inspire us is even better. Here is a movie that did just that for me.

The day before the library shut down I was fortunate enough to grab a FastView copy of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The movie is based on a true story of Mister Rogers, creator of the long-running children’s television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It stars Tom Hanks (who, needless to say, is absolutely perfect as Fred Rogers) and Matthew Rhys. You can have a look at the official trailer (though of course you won’t be able to borrow the DVD from the library for a while).

In the movie, magazine writer Lloyd Vogel (Rhys) is sent by Esquire magazine to interview Mister Rogers. An angry and cynical guy, Vogel is utterly disdainful at the very idea but something unexpected happens. Fred Rogers is genuinely interested in Lloyd and starts to ask him gentle, probing questions about his life. Slowly as their friendship develops, Lloyd opens up about himself and his emotions, and then sets about healing his relationship with his estranged father. This could easily veer into the syrupy or maudlin, but it never does.

I don’t have any childhood memories of Mister Rogers, since when I was a kid we didn’t have a TV (it’s OK, I survived). From watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (and also having seen the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) I was really struck by the extraordinary empathy of Fred Rogers. He seemed able to genuinely connect with all kinds of people, and especially children. He truly saw and and honoured the uniqueness in every individual. How special (and rare) is that? I wish there was more people like Mister Rogers in the world. Now more than ever.

Since I have a lot of free time on my hands these days—and quite possibly you do too– I have been reading about Fred Rogers. Here is a hodge podge of assorted facts about him.

  1. He came from a wealthy and privileged background.
  2. Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. His religious convictions, though he seldom talked about them, were undoubtedly at the heart of his extraordinary kindness and compassion.
  3. He was a vegetarian. He became one in the 1970s when a middle-aged male vegetarian must surely have been a rarity. His stated reason for becoming a vegetarian: he didn’t want to eat anything that had a mother.
  4. Lastly, a Canadian angle for you—Fred Rogers worked in children’s programming for the CBC in Toronto for three years in the 1960s. While with the CBC, he came up with many of the ideas and props he would later use in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

— Penny D.