“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” tackles things far from beautiful

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc | Reproduced with Permission

Some things aren’t always so beautiful in this neighborhood.

Directed by Marielle Heller and based on a true story, “A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood” tells the story of journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and his journey profiling television personality Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). As the movie progresses, a damaged relationship between Vogel and his father is slowly revealed, allowing a light to be shined on the kindness of Rogers as he brings positivity and hope into Vogel’s troubled life.

Right from the start, the movie kicks off into high-gear nostalgia. With an opening scene that pays homage to Rogers’ children’s show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” his kindness is immediately established in a heartwarming and fulfilling way. Soon after, the darkness that plagues Vogel’s life brings a perfect contrast to this, offering a very transparent differentiation between the two men, which later allows for clear and easy-to-follow character development throughout the movie. 

Rhys does a fantastic job as Vogel. Portraying a character rooted in aggression and heartache, Rhys nails each aspect of his ever-changing moods. Starting out broken and becoming mended along the way, his emotional spectrum ranges anywhere from furious outbursts to tearful revelations, giving Rhys an opportunity to showcase a variety of emotions.

Hanks gives a memorable and sentimental performance as Rogers. During several moments throughout the movie, his kindness and empathy is so convincingly portrayed that it becomes emotional. Seeing a character get angry with Rogers felt like seeing somebody get angry with a puppy, making several moments unsettling and uncomfortable to watch. With soft-spoken words and a never-ending care for others, Hanks is successfully able to reopen the spotlight on Rogers and the memory of a man who inspired kindness in a time when it was desperately needed. 

The cinematography of the movie is unique and well-fitting. To show a jump in time or location, transitioning scenes would be props from the set of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” showing a toy plane taking off or a clay sun setting in the distance. To accompany a buildup in plot intensity or a heartbreaking moment of grief, the soundtrack was pleasing, well-distributed and beautifully composed in a way that made it impossible to go unnoticed.

Although viewers might have expected a movie about Fred Rogers, the film is primarily about Vogel, telling the story of a man who slowly becomes healed with the help of the care and effort from those around him. The movie successfully conveys a message about the importance of friendship and family. While Rogers certainly plays a key role in Vogel’s development, it is also a story of self-exploration, where Lloyd comes to terms with his troubles and understands that accepting them is the only way he can move forward. 

Though a few scenes are fast-paced and sometimes feel unfinished, the overall production of the movie is very insightful. It is clear that great effort and research was put forth to accurately portray Mister Rogers and his television show, as well as the complex friendship between him and Lloyd. No moment in the film feels out of place, making for a very enjoyable cinematic experience that is as equally nostalgic as it is informative and sure to leave viewers touched and smiling by the time it’s over.

4.5 out of 5 puppets