A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

A- SDG Original source: National Catholic Register

What do you do with the mad that you feel?

As adults, we don’t hear Mr. Rogers’ question being directed to us, because he put it in a rhyming song simple enough for the youngest of his viewers, whom he tirelessly coached on understanding and managing their feelings in constructive ways.

This is something children need to learn to do and which adults ought to know how to do. But do we? Do we do it? Do we know how?

Directed by Marielle Heller. Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper, Susan Kelechi Watson, Maryann Plunkett, Enrico Colantoni, Tammy Blanchard. TriStar.

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/Spiritual Value

+3

Age Appropriateness

Teens & Up

MPAA Rating

PG-13

Caveat Spectator

Brief violence; some cursing and limited profanity; mature themes.

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood holds a special place — it would not be too strong to say a sacred place — in the hearts of many. Yet that neighborhood is an infinite distance from where we live now.

The lullaby-like celesta notes at the beginning of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — both the theme song and the movie, which starts with a meticulous recreation of the opening of every show of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood — may fill us with nostalgia, but the way we go about our lives and interact with people around us suggests little or no continuity between that nostalgia and our current reality.

From the outset, Beautiful Day signals that it isn’t merely out to recreate a beloved television show or its even more beloved host …although he continues talking in the same simple way he always did, it’s clear our host isn’t addressing a hypothetical young viewer in the past, but you and me in the present.

If Graham Greene was right that “the only true subject” for any film is “life as it is and life as it ought to be,” Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood offers, at most, a powerful paradigm of life as perhaps we feel it ought to be, or would like it to be. Life as it is, though, seems to us a separate subject — not only separate but separated, partitioned, sealed off.

“Subversive” is not a word that I would expect to use in a positive way in a review of a movie about Mr. Rogers, but here we are: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is wisely and gently subversive in blurring the barrier between the as-it-ought-to-be world of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and the as-it-is world of adult conflict and complications.

It starts with the casting.

Biography, Drama, Fatherhood

Related

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? REVIEW

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

For a few formative years of our lives, Mr. Rogers showed us the way. Why don’t we walk that way? Because of all the voices dominating the discussion ever since.