June 7, 2018

CINEMA | Mister Rogers Loves You – 'Won't You Be My Neighbor?'

"Love is at the root of everything."
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood | Fred Rogers Morgan Neville | Won't You Be My Neighbor?

National treasure Fred Rogers, creator and host of the adored educational kids public television program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, was a somewhat radically kind man. Documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville takes Rogers' life and work molding Won't You Be My Neighbor? into an entirely heartwarming and wholesome portrait of a man who loved children and made it his mission to protect them. In this way, it feels wholly subversive in its earnestness.

Using extensive archival footage spanning Rogers' entire illustrious career in public television and only a select amount of interviews with his closest colleagues, friends, and family, the documentary is such an in-depth but straightforward piece of work advocating kindness, faith, and empathy.

How the show's history, old clips, and explanatory interviews are present are truly artful and reflect such a unique vision of growing up. Neville shies away from pure adoration and questions Rogers' unbelievably friendly demeanour and his own motivations.

The film gives a rich impression of his fragile innocence that stayed with him his entire life and how it influenced his deep connection to children. Growing up in an affluent and protective family, Roger's special worldview feels so moving and uplifting.

The thing the film leaves you about Rogers and what Neville captures so poignantly is the values he stood for, his neverending empathy, and altruistic protective nature over children. Won't You Be My Neighbor? is a fitting chronicle not the man nor his legacy as much as what he stood for. This documentary feels like the perfect antidote to today's political ills and toxic masculinity. It's just so pure.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? is currently screening at Fifth Avenue Cinemas.


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