“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was directed by Morgan Neville and is about the life of Mister Fred Rogers, a children’s show host who used strong real-life themes to get messages to kids, and made sure to treat every child as if they were special in their own right.
Though I never truly watched his show as a kid myself, I have gained a ton of respect for what Mister Rogers did over the years, and I was incredibly excited to see an entire documentary with him as the central focus. The trailer for this film got me to tear up, so I expected to feel loads of emotion coming in, while also learning more about who was under that iconic sweater.
This documentary does an outstanding job at going deeper than a surface-level telling of the life and achievements of Mister Rogers. While I didn’t know all that much about him coming in, I can tell that Neville went deeper than most would, getting a larger understanding of the inner struggles and potential issues that Rogers faced during his illustrious career. These are moments that will stick with me, and give me a wider feel of just who this man really was.
Along with those deeper moments, there was a great use of moments from his shows to do storytelling. The documentary implements just the right amount of major clips and highlights from the famous children’s show to give an idea of just how out there and unique Mister Rogers was, and they are also used very well to get even further with the inner workings of its host. The moments in this movie about his connection to Daniel Striped Tiger really struck a chord with me, and these scenes were handled with a beautiful amount of care by everyone involved.
I tend to cry in a fair amount of movies, as long as they really earn the tears, I am willing to let them out, and man, does “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” get the waterworks going. I bawled my eyes out a few times throughout this film, each and every time from how important and how great Mister Rogers was at what he did. Moments with him and children, especially a scene with a certain child who had a disability, absolutely crushed me, and the movie really earned every moment of emotion that it received.
It just feels that this was the absolute right time to have a documentary like this come to the theaters. Mister Rogers may not be around today, but seeing what he did with themes of war, death, divorce and feeling out of place, especially with them being on a kids show, is absolutely stunning, and it shows just how much good can come from someone who cares. I loved the moments that showed the radical side of the show, and I really appreciated how the documentary ended on ideas of what Mister Rogers would do now.
If there was any slight I could give this movie, I would say it comes with a few of the animated sequences. I appreciated the unique flair that they had, and a few of them worked more than others. But more times than others, I found them to be the weaker moments, as I appreciated using actual clips from his show, or simply a shot of whoever was talking, to these more out-there moments.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” used its beloved subject and made a film that masterfully shows everything for which he stood for, while also giving enough of a behind-the-scenes look to feel incredibly valuable. This is a feel-good movie that anyone could use, and it will surely make you cry whether or not you have ever watched Mister Rogers in your entire life. This was an outstanding documentary, and one that landed on every single thing it needed to.