A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a film that reconnects audiences with their own emotions and their perception of others. Mr. Rogers is a pioneer of children’s programming and this film showcases his ability to connect with everyone. This film was made at the right time because the world seems to have lost the purity and the beauty of living.
Marielle Heller’s direction was lovely and the structure of this film was different than any biopic I’ve seen. The choice to have a journalist as the lead and Mr. Rogers has his subject was a bold choice. Instead of analyzing Fred, Heller reversed the narrative so the spotlight was on the journalist, Lloyd who has been struggling with his own trauma for years. Heller captured the very essence of Fred Rogers because of how she constructed this film.
The most important thing about this film, was choosing the right actor to play Mr. Rogers and after watching this, no one else could have played this role as perfectly as Tom Hanks. Hanks changed his physicality, he slowed down his speech, his voice was just as soothing as Fred’s, even his eye contact was filled with compassion and understanding. Tom Hanks developed the same connection with the camera as Fred Rogers did and that’s why everything fell into place.
The screenplay was very well written and they managed to flow in and out of the set and Lloyd’s life quite seamlessly. Matthew Rhys as Lloyd had a very internal performance and his silence was powerful. The more questions Lloyd asked Fred, the more Fred diverted and gently nudged Lloyd to discuss the root of his pain/anger. Whenever Hanks delivered any of his lines, he just grabbed you and made you listen to what he had to say, most of it was quite insightful.
There were so many aspects that I loved. I loved that Heller opened and closed with the songs from the show, it felt like the whole film was a long, in-depth analysis of Lloyd on his show. I loved that Heller built little cities and kept them in the transitions, just like the show. This was such a lovely piece dedicated to Mr. Rogers and I’m happy that it wasn’t a generic biopic.