Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood with Tom Hanks

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When I lived in the USA, Fred Rogers had his own children’s’ show on American television. In the popular programme Rogers sort of played himself – he is Mr Rogers. The show usually opened with him arriving ‘home’ and singing his trademark opening song “A beautiful day in the neighbourhood” before speaking directly to camera and asking “won’t you be my neighbour?”.

I confess to enjoying this background hum of gentle activity on day time television. The pace was slow, the themes authentic. Though the years have passed, as I began watching Tom Hanks portray Rogers, I admit to harbouring my own pre-conceived ideas about the storyline. Nearly all of them were wrong.

I was delighted to discover that this film is as much about Fred Rogers as it is about the journalist, Lloyd Vogel, (played by Matthew Rhys) who interviews Rogers at length over the course of several months. I relish films which reveal the internal struggles of writers. Especially ‘tortured’ writers, of which Vogel is definitely one. His character is based on real life journalist, Tom Junod, who wrote the 1998 article “Can you say … Hero?” published in Esquire.

During one interview there was an intense, pivotal moment when Vogel, an angry troubled soul, challenges Rogers about the success of his role as a father. Clearly wounded and outraged by this probing, deeply personal question, Rogers squares up to this intentional nastiness with a glaring, lip pursing silence, before delivering a thoughtful gracious response. In this particular scene, I found veteran actor Hanks, mesmerising in his depiction of a man choosing to process and control his raw anger before speaking out or taking action which might hurt another person.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the work of Fred Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, delivers a heart-warming story in which kindness overcomes cruelty.

Val Fraser

Val Fraser is a trained journalist with over 12 years’ experience working on staff in various demanding media environments. She has authored/edited thousands of articles including news, travel and features. Val has authored/contributed to nine non-fiction books. A regular columnist, she stepped up to the role of Digital Editor in September 2022 and is responsible for the Sorted Magazine website.
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