Title – Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
Director – Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom)
Cast – Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers
Plot – A look back at the life of legendary TV personality Fred Rogers and how his show MisteRogers’ Neighborhood transformed the lives of American children for over 31 year’s.
“The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving”
Review by Eddie on 29/11/2018
It’s far from the most ground-breaking or even most informative of documentaries, but there is no way you walk out of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? without a genuine feeling of enrichment, having spent the previous 90 minutes of your time in the world of legendary American TV presenter Fred Rogers.
As a born and bred Australian I knew very little of Rogers and his time as the host of MisteRogers’ Neighborhood, a show that ran for an incredible 31 seasons and delivered 895 episodes but the joy of Morgan Neville’s examination of the life of Rogers (that largely focuses on his time as a TV host) is that for die-hard fans, passers-by or those like me that are blissfully ignorant, Neighbor will quickly wrap you under its spell as you’re transported into the world of a man that seems almost too good to be true.
It’s a fascinating journey that Rogers led, from a wealthy up-bringing to becoming an ordained minister, but Rogers was a man that wore his heart on his sleeve and made no bones about what he wanted to achieve, which is why Neighbor becomes such a heart-warming tale of a human that wanted to see children of this world and the world they live in become a better place.
It seems almost too fanciful in the world we live in today but Rogers was the real deal and hearing those that were close to him talk about the man we saw on TV and the man that he was outside of that, reinforces that the children of Rogers era were lucky to grow up surrounded by such a kind-hearted figure, who saw TV as an opportunity to not only entertain but educate, making you wonder how Rogers would feel in today’s age of reality TV and mindless childhood programing.
Seeing Roger’s joy on set of his show and his interactions with those that were a part of it showcases a man that was doing exactly what he loved and with that, an infectious and undeniable magic that transformed all those around him.
Neville does a fine job of collating the countless hours of Roger’s TV life, talking heads and other archival footage to deliver such a streamlined and proficient look at Roger’s life goals and values and while some may be a little disappointed in the lack of personal life insight the film offers, you begin to quickly understand that Neville’s goal was not to take to Rogers life with pinpoint examination, rather to deliver a film that reminds us of Roger’s desires and act as a call to arms for an industry and country to take heed of.
Final Say –
A documentary that will bring a great big smile out of even the most cold-hearted viewer and quite possibly a tear or two, Won’t You be my Neighbor? is easily one of the year’s most loveable film’s and a lovingly crafted tribute to one of the greatest TV personalities of all time.
4 ½ sweaters out of 5
I have to admit I didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers, but I do have a lot of respect for the man. That it turns out his pleasant demeanor is the genuine article is an example more people need to follow, though as the film points out, these people are more common than one would think – even if the cameras don’t always focus on them.
Fantastic words of truth Red Metal. The film became a really poignant piece of work and as you say, made you realise how important these type of people are to your life.
I did grow up watching this so will defs have to check this doco out..
Its a beautiful day in the neighbourhood..
It’s a bit of a shame it never found its way down here to Aus, I was stuck with Playschool.
As a Brit, I didn’t have the privilege of growing up with Mister Rogers. I think the first I heard of him was when his famous ‘helpers’ quote popped up in my Twitter feed after the Paris attacks in 2015 (“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”) With so much horror in the world these days, I think about that quote a lot. He seemed like a genuinely lovely man and I can’t wait to see this documentary. (But I can’t promise that I won’t blub through most of it.)
Oh mate there will be a few happy tears! It’s just one of those films.
He really did seem like the genuine article, just a man that wanted to do some good in the world and help anyone he could.
I was right there, the first audience, in my living room with crossed-legs and happy to be in his neighborhood because mine sucked. I loved Daniel Striped Tiger.
It was so good watching this and being reminded of the power of TV and the good it can do.
The way Mr. Rogers utilised this was great to see.
In a deeply divided America, what we need now, more than ever are philosophies and approach to life like what Fred Rogers used to say on his program. Its easy to be nice to our love ones and good friends, much harder to love our enemies and those who have done us harm. Try to reach out to someone who you don’t like or have done you harm or at least have kind thoughts for them and pray our future leaders can bring America together again and heal our beloved nation.
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