A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD is a beautiful day, or evening, in the cinema, a feel good movie of unsurpassed beauty, delicate, restorative, provocative, genuine, authentic.
When investigative New York journalist Lloyd Vogel is assigned a profile on Mister Rogers, a children’s television presenter beloved by millions of viewers, he approaches the children’s icon with cynicism, not believing that anyone can really be that good of a person.
Convinced Mr. Rogers is a treacly television fabrication, a manufactured Dalai Lama for preschoolers, Lloyd prods and probes, but Mr. Rogers turns the tables, chipping away at the journalist’s cynicism and personal pain, his estrangement from his father and his fear of failure in his recent fatherhood.
With a disarming honesty, folksy but far from fake, Mr. Rogers perceives and then pricks Lloyd’s pain and jadedness, instigating a guided discovery of reconciliation with himself, his new family and his failing father.
A cat and mouse see saw between the sceptic and the saint ensues, with Mr. Rogers running restorative rings round the emotionally wearied reporter.
Matthew Rhys, after playing a hard bitten New York Times reporter in last year’s brilliant The Report, hones his scornful, suspicious suit as Lloyd, who has daddy issues both sides of his being.
Estranged from his own father, the long buried resentment is resurrected by the presence of his own child and then exacerbated in a forced reunion at his serial marrying sister’s latest nuptials.
Chris Cooper plays Lloyd’s dad, Jerry, searingly flawed, a prodigal parent, anxious to form an act of contrition with his abandoned son. Cooper is having a bumper year leaving an indelible impression in Little Women as Mr. Laurence.
Tom Hanks is bloody marvellous as Mr. Rogers and is nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at this year’s Oscars. No offence to Brad Pitt, but cardigan trumps bare chest hands down.
Truth be told, it’s a travesty that this picture isn’t nominated for more Academy Awards – Film, Director, Screenplay, Production Design and Music come to mind immediately.
Directed by Marielle Heller, whose two previous films were the sublime The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, with a clever and very funny screenplay by Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD maybe the most compassionate, inspiring and supportive film you will see this year.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD beautifully reminds us of Mister Rogers’ dedication to empathy, kindness and decency, qualities that seem sadly outdated, with stocks at a regrettable low. Audience investment in this film will hopefully see those stocks rise.