“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
RELEASE DATE: June 8, 2018 (limited)
MPAA RATING: PG-13 (for some thematic elements and language)
There is irony in a documentary that explores a land of make believe, but Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (“20 Feet from Stardom”) successfully accomplishes that, and so much more, with his offering “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
The film, whose title is taken from one of Rogers’ signature songs, provides great insight into the person — and personality — of the late Fred Rogers, the sweater-clad gentleman who hosted “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on PBS Television from 1968 to 2001.
Told through interviews with many of his friends, colleagues, fans and archival interviews with Rogers himself, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” includes behind-the-scenes footage of the program and snippets of home movies that assist in revealing that with Fred Rogers, what we saw was very much what we got.
What makes this 94-minute film most appealing is its conveyance of Fred Rogers’ genuine goodness. The man’s depth of character, and depth of his conviction that each of us has unique gifts to share with the world, is so refreshing to experience. Viewing this film triggered a gamut of emotions within me, and I was choked-up with tears several times, likely the combination of a feeling of nostalgia, but also a feeling of hope; that perhaps we can collectively embrace the Mister Rogers’ inside of us to make the world gentler, more compassionate, and love-filled.
This film should be must-viewing for everyone. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” does, indeed, make for a wonderful day in the neighborhood.