Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson
Director: Marielle Heller
Running Time: 109 mins
A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood is an American film about a journalist who is tasked with profiling beloved children’s television host, Mr. Rogers, and the friendship he develops with the man so many look up to.
Sweet, earnest and heartfelt, A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood is a beautiful and pleasant watch that will certainly put a big smile on your face and a song in your heart. The story of how beloved personality Mr. Rogers’ message of kindness came through in the real world, it’s an undeniably uplifting watch, bolstered by a gorgeous performance from Tom Hanks.
However, while this film is certainly a delightful watch, it’s not quite the soaring piece of heartwarming cinema it aims to be, often coming across as a little too lightweight for its own good, and missing out on the crux of why Mr. Rogers’ unique style of delivering the message of kindness was so powerful.
One thing to know about this film, however, is that it’s not a movie all about Mr. Rogers and his TV show. If you’re from outside of the US, there’s a good chance you won’t know Mr. Rogers, and this movie unfolds with the expectation that you do, particularly when admiring his many quirks and eccentricities.
As a result, I would absolutely recommend you go and watch the excellent documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbour?, all about Mr. Rogers’ life, career and the essence of his message and worldview. It’s an even more thought-provoking and heartwarming watch than this film, but it will set you up with the knowledge and affection for the man that you need to really fall in love with A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood.
So, the real objective of this film is to show how Mr. Rogers’ unique message of kindness came through in the real world. Through his friendship with cynical reporter Lloyd Vogel, we see the impact of changing one’s perspective on the things and people around us, overcoming the dark and appreciating the good in life.
It’s a heartfelt and honest tale that plays out to the tune of a gorgeous soundtrack and a pleasingly patient pace throughout, which is only bolstered by Tom Hanks’ adorable and beautifully genuine performance as Mr. Rogers alongside Matthew Rhys as Lloyd Vogel.
That story will put a big smile on your face, and really clear your mind of all the troubles bothering you at the moment. Director Marielle Heller really deserves praise in that regard for retaining the essence of Mr. Rogers’ show and message in this film, furthered just that little bit more by sweet references to the TV show in scene transitions and the film’s opening and closing sequences.
Saying all that, however, A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood never quite hits home on the emotional level it clearly aims to. It’s a delightful watch, and will put a smile on your face, but it never filled my heart with joy and hope to the extent that I expected, and that Won’t You Be My Neighbour? managed.
That’s partly due to the fact that the movie never quite hits the nail on the head with its presentation of darker themes surrounding Lloyd Vogel. Instead, his journey to peace and a kinder worldview all seems a little too simple, and never the challenging process that Mr. Rogers always recognises is the case.
Also, there are times when the film really lacks the energy and charisma needed to keep that song going strong in your heart. Its slower pacing is an absolute positive, but particularly in the moments without Tom Hanks (and even some with), the film just doesn’t have much zeal, and definitely feels more one-note than Heller’s excellent Can You Ever Forgive Me?.
As a result, I was never entirely enthralled by A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood. There’s no denying it’s an uplifting, earnest and pleasant watch, but it just doesn’t have the depth necessary to make its message hit home in a more powerful way.
So, while you’ll absolutely enjoy this film if you choose to see it, I suggest you seek out the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbour? beforehand, and then watch this as a companion piece. A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood is a delightful and heartfelt watch, but unfortunately not always the complete package, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5 overall.