A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood: Film Review

Tom Hanks is beloved by everyone, an actor who seems like a genuinely nice guy, and so it makes perfect sense for him to play American children’s entertainer Fred Rogers, the kind host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, in Marielle Heller‘s A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.

The film, based on the 1999 Esquire article by Tom Junod, focuses on the friendship that develops between journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and Fred Rogers when he is assigned to profile him for the magazine. Vogel is a hard, bitter man with deep resentments towards his father who is determined to prove that Rogers isn’t the saint he’s perceived as, but he ends up coming away learning some big life lessons.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood may seem like a biopic of Rogers, but it’s not. You certainly gain some insight into his life but this is Lloyd’s story and he is a supporting character. This film is about toxic masculinity and how failing to address and express your emotions can manifest itself in the ugliest of ways. Rogers helps Lloyd see that holding a grudge against his father Jerry (Chris Cooper) is affecting his whole life and he needs to talk through his problems and let it go to have a happy life. For this reason, this film could not feel more timely and relevant.

It takes a while to get into the film because it opens with the start of an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – a children’s TV show which ran in the U.S. from 1968 to 2001 – and for a minute I wondered if the whole movie was going to be told in the grainy TV show style, with Rogers talking to children slowly and carefully, but thankfully, after a pan over a toy town, we enter the real world and meet Lloyd and his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson). However, the film still had some quirky, experimental moments that were surprising and weird but I didn’t really mind it.

Hanks has never been so perfectly cast in a role and he’s done some great work. Who better to play America’s most beloved children’s TV host than the most universally loved actor?! He is so lovely. Rhys plays the same angsty, angry and cynical character for a lot of the movie but he gets to do more later on and he was very good.

The film is here to teach a lesson and some may find this too heavy-handed and sentimental but I thought it was heartwarming and life-affirming and makes you strive to be a better person. Fred Rogers may not be well known over here but that doesn’t matter – the story isn’t about him. And if you do want to know more than let me point you in the direction of the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is a lovely, uplifting film. I wholeheartedly recommend.

In cinemas Friday 31st January

Rating: 4.5/5

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