WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR Review: 10 (A Kind Reminder)
For many filmgoers who appreciated PBS and all of the children's programming that it offered over the decades, just seeing the trailer for WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR was enough to sell the film probably more than 99% of most other documentaries. The film is directed by Morgan Neville about the life and guiding philosophy of Fred Rogers, the host and creator of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Neville has had a history of making films spotlighting the careers of celebrities and musicians—but turns his camera now to one of the most beloved characters in the pantheon of PBS.
For anyone who has seen the trailer for this film and gotten a bit teary-eyed, rest assured that the film delivers plenty more nostalgia, wisdom, and the sheer goodness that the children's guru and minister Fred Rogers offered his audiences for years. The film offers a great balance of history, biography, and most importantly the greater guiding philosophy of a man who tried his hardest to shape a generation of children toward love and compassion. Fred Rogers and his program were both bold and sensitive and spoke to our culture about topics that were difficult for adults, much less children.
There is a word that I don't use very often in describing films but I will use here. This film is important. It is important right now in a world that badly needs to hear wise words Mr. Rogers espoused for decades. As I watched this film, I began to hang on every word that was spoken by Fred Rogers that the filmmakers had captured for this documentary. I listened intently, probably because a voice like his isn't present any longer in the world we live in. And yet the world we live in today so badly needs his message of goodness, tolerance, and acceptance. And for a man who was so indubitably kind, the film is even brave enough to challenge the critics Fred Rogers dealt with throughout his career. Fred Rogers left this world in 2003, a full 3 years after Twitter was launched. I think this must speak to the man's prescience as it along with so many other forms of social media run counter to his greater guiding philosophy. So take a break from all of the summer blockbusters and offer yourself an antidote to all of the dinosaurs, superheroes, murder, robots, and guns that all of the blockbusters are going to deliver with high octane and pumped up volume. Instead, Treat yourself to the quiet and kind spirit of a man that represents more of what we all need in our world today. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR is a perfect blend of a beautiful message. It receives my highest recommendation. I grew up with Fred Rogers (like so many of you reading this) and this film is a gentle but firm reminder: I miss him.