Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
Critic Consensus: Won't You Be My Neighbor? takes a fittingly patient and honest look at the life and legacy of a television pioneer whose work has enriched generations.
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Critic Reviews for Won't You Be My Neighbor?
This gentle, positive treatment of Rogers coincides with the show's values but devalues his enormous social importance.
This documentary by Morgan Neville reveals that he really was just what he seemed to be at first innocent sight: a kind-hearted, square but saintly man who genuinely loved and understood children in a pure, sincere way.
Not beyond reproach, but a fitting tribute to a pop culture icon.
You don't need to have grown up with [Rogers] to be fascinated and moved by Morgan Neville's documentary portrait, made in a spirit of admiration, which on the evidence presented here seems well-deserved.
It's daunting, particularly when we feel we are in the shadow of figures like him, who are seemingly capable of such impossible good.
Audience Reviews for Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Incredibly touching and powerful, Won't You Be My Neighbor? is a wonderful documentary about children's performer Fred Rogers. The film looks at how a young aspiring minister named Fred Rogers got into the burgeoning industry of children's television and created one of the most influential programs of his day. Friends, family, cast members, and industry experts discuss Roger's unique approach to educating and entertaining children and the positive messaging of his work (emphasizing each child's specialness and self-worth). Also discussed are his bold attempts to address and relieve the tensions and anxieties that children had about political events happening around them, including the Vietnam War, racial tensions, and 9/11, in terms that they would understand. Won't You Be My Neighbor? is a loving testament to the work and legacy of Mr. Rogers.
Fred Rogers was surely one of the most beautiful human beings I can think of, and this is a wonderful documentary that brought me to tears just by reminding us that people like that exist - which is perhaps the most important message anyone can offer in a world so full of madness.
Given the uncertainty, cruelty, and division of recent news headlines, in many ways the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? is the kind of movie we need right now, a film that reminds the significance of vulnerability, empathy, and simple kindness. It's also, in certain ways, a pretty shallow documentary afraid to go too far with its subject matter. From the Oscar-winning director of 20 Feet From Stardom, this is another movie giving the spotlight to a reserved soul deserving of praise, and it hits you square in the feels. It's hard not to have your heart warmed by the footage of Fred Rogers, he of the long-running and inspiring Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, impacting children and adults, seeing those smiling faces light up with pride and joy. There's a woman at a commencement that thanks him for essentially providing her preschool education for her when her parents could not afford one. Rogers was not afraid to broach serious subjects, devoting episodes of his children's series to divorce, death, assassination, and racial integration. It's a neighborhood with a lot more daring messages than you might have recalled as a child. However, there are opportunities to push beyond the Mr. Rogers' image (though he very much was what you saw) and the film shies away from going too far. The actor who played Officer Clemons was gay, but Rogers said if he came out he would have to regrettably kick him off the show because it would be too controversial. There's a moment where the talking head interviews talk about Rogers transforming into his King Friday alter ego, but it's over so quickly it seems odd even being mentioned. After the horror of 9/11, Rogers was brought out of retirement to speak, but he wondered if he still had any ability to really reach an audience in trauma any longer. I would have liked to have delved into these questions more, but that would detract, I suppose from the overall feel-good, glowing, crowd-pleasing and admittedly heart-warming portrayal. Nate's Grade: B
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