Directed by Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom), Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a documentary featuring the revolutionary Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, the beloved children’s show which ran for 33 years (1968-2001). On the show Fred Rogers explored various topics with young viewers through presentations and music in his Neighborhood and in the Land of Make-Believe. The film features clips from the show as well as commentary about Rogers from those who were closest to him.
I know that the word “revolutionary” isn’t one readily associated with Mr. Rogers. He was known as this laid back, genteel, gentle, boring, bland, vanilla, straight-laced, gentleman; but Rogers was, in his own special way, bad ass! Outside of being “Mr. Rogers,” I knew nothing about Fred Rogers before seeing this documentary, but I learned so much and his story is quite inspirational.
Personally, while growing up I never cared for the program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Even as a small child I could not help but wonder what was wrong with this man who played with these odd looking puppets and wasn’t a ventriloquist but cornily voiced some of them as if he were. Also, that King Friday the 13th was mean and scary to me. I did enjoy when there were real people on the show, but I wasn’t willing to sit through those nightmare-inducing puppets to get to the good parts. And, I suspiciously wondered, why the hell does this grown man like small children so much?… Yes, that is how my 3 and 4 year-old mind worked, so you could imagine the mess it is today! 😊
I’m here to tell you, I am a fan now! Not so much of the show (I still don’t think I could sit through those puppets, although it’s been many, many years since I’ve tried), but definitely of the man. What an exceptional human being. This man was a visionary and pioneer in children’s television programming, the likes of which hadn’t been seen before or since, and may never be seen again. If you aren’t familiar with my personal background (here’s my Welcome message), I have a masters degree in school psychology, so Rogers’ love of children and the concern for their feelings and reactions really touched me. Most adults don’t realize the importance of acknowledge children’s feelings, much less take time to examine, validate, understand or explain them to the child. Due to his own childhood traumas Rogers was able to remember what it was like to be a child full of fear, hope, anger, joy, pain, questions and love. What a gift to still remember that vulnerability and those feelings into adulthood, and have the ability to draw those emotions out in children and help them deal with them appropriately.
He also had/has plenty of lessons to teach adults, including reminders about kindness, unity, cooperation, civility, manners, friendship, self control, acceptance and love. Concepts that too many of today’s adults seem to have forgotten about or simply abandoned. If you don’t believe me, and I have stated this in previous posts, go on Facebook and look at a the comments under any post with even a hint of political undertones and see the nasty, name-calling rudeness, childish remarks, insults, tantrums, and crudeness. People even bring politics into apolitical posts just to get the fight started. This documentary could not be more timely as there are many examples of Rogers just being a decent human, consistently leading by example on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and in his personal life.
If anyone told me this was going to happen, I would never have believed them. (It has only happened a very few times since I’ve been blogging about movies for the past two years. Moonlight, Miss Sharon Jones, The Lobster (these are the links to my reviews) in 2016, and although I waited on it and we came so very close it never happened once last year (good thing I wasn’t holding my breath!), but Won’t You Be My Neighbor earned 10 out of 10 bloops. I absolutely loved it. I even want to see it again! It is a beautiful, well made, well organized, focused documentary that stands out and pays an outstanding tribute to a man who richly deserves it.
Even though it’s very early and award season is not upon us yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if Won’t You Be My Neighbor is nominated for Best Documentary, and it will be difficult to beat. If you are that person who goes to the movies once in a blue moon, whether you’re a fan of the man or the show or not, do yourself a favor and go see this one. You may not enjoy it as thoroughly as I did, but you will not be disappointed.
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
What I’m seeing/reviewing next…
Eighth Grade – I’ve already seen it and I can tell you right now, I didn’t love it as much as “the critics” or Rotten Tomato users seem to have. Who are these people?
Blindspotting – I snagged late preview tickets to see this Wednesday, so the review will be published by Thursday evening
Mama Mia! Here We Go Again
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
If Beale Street Could Talk
What Men Want
Eighth Grade Vice Roma
Mary Queen of Scots Widows The Favourite
Green Book Halloween Nobody’s Fool
Bohemian Rhapsody Beautiful Boy The Hate U Give
First Man Assassination Nation The Oath
A Star is Born The House with a Clock in Its Walls A Simple Favor
The Predator BlackkKlansman Support the Girls
Peppermint Christopher Robin Crazy Rich Asians
The Happytime Murders RBG
Support the Girls
Crazy Rich Asians
The Happytime Murders
Sorry to Bother You
Avengers: Infinity War
You Were Never Really Here
A Quiet Place
Ready Player One
A Wrinkle in Time
The Florida Project
Den of Thieves
All the Money in the World
The Greatest Showman
The Disaster Artist
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Victoria and Abdul
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The Big Sick
All Eyez on Me
It Comes at Night
The Wedding Plan
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I Am Not Your Negro