A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood revivifies one beloved American icon through another. A perfectly cast Tom Hanks is luminous in this wonderfully idiosyncratic biopic based on children’s TV host Fred Rogers and his life-changing relationship with journalist Tom Junod.
Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), an acclaimed writer known for his damning exposés, has been assigned with writing a profile on Rogers. Despite his initial qualms, Fred soon breaks down Lloyd’s defences, encouraging him to address the anger that has kept him from those he cares about. Fashioned after Junod’s Can You say… Hero? – published in Esquire in 1998, the film is a welcome tonic to restore your dwindling faith in humanity.
Hanks’s performance is such that it feels like he is addressing every viewer individually, as if identifying that special uniqueness in every soul. He perfectly captures Rogers’s gentle demeanour, from the open invitation of his smile to the twinkle in his eye. An hour with this impossibly calm character would be worth a lifetime of therapy sessions. But the weight of the star’s own burdens are only hinted at – a faint shadow coming through in the clashing of the piano keys. It’s a delicately crafted tribute to a man who absorbed the problems of others without expecting anything in return. Rhys’s deeply principled yet cynical portrayal perfectly complements Hanks: his dubious looks are wonderfully funny, but all the more powerful when they slowly evolve into admiration.
Marielle Heller frames her tale with delightful originality, merging the on-set world of Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood with the darker world of our story. The model neighbourhood is charming, miniature cars juddering on tracks, plastic buildings lit up in a skyline of the city at night. Trippy dream sequences place Lloyd in the show, while the constant eye contact to camera positions viewers, too, as children; we are all capable of learning. Rogers’s show was created as a way to help kids identify their emotions, but the film reminds us that adults are in need of the same lessons. Heller explores the relationships between parents and their children, encouraging us to seize the current moment and tend to the feelings of those who are in front of us. The soundtrack is effective to this end: interference suggests repressed emotions, while music provides a means of vibrant expression.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood rekindles that treasured feeling you had as a child of feeling utterly secure. It creates a safe space to share, and reflect, and wonder on the healing power of simple humanity.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is released nationwide on 31st January 2020.
Watch the trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood here: