In a time when it seems as though the world is fueled by hate, that which stirs compassion is among the most important forms of art. The movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is just that.

Mount St. Joseph News


In a time when it seems as though the world is fueled by hate, that which stirs compassion is among the most important forms of art. The movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is just that.  Directed by Marielle Heller, “A Beautiful Day” is a drama based on a true story surrounding Fred Rogers, the popular children’s television host of the late twentieth century, who revolutionized children’s television programming.


The movie opens just like any episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Tom Hanks, who plays Mr. Rogers, enters the TV show’s classic living room set, singing the show’s familiar introductory song with all of the quirky touches we remember. We even get to see a visit from Mr. McFeely, the mailman of The Neighborhood of Make-Believe. It has all of the familiar elements that make you feel like a child again, sitting on the living room floor and being completely engrossed in the soft, slow voice of Fred Rogers, as he tells you that it’s you he likes. 


As the show continues, we soon learn that the subject of this special episode is Lloyd Vogel, a writer for The Atlantic known for his rather scathing exposés of his interviewees.  Played by Matthew Rhys, Vogel is a man who has become completely lost to himself in trying to be a grown up. While he enjoys so many of the elements we associate with a good life— a successful career in a profession he enjoys, a good relationship with his partner, and a new child— Vogel is “broken,” as he calls himself at one point in the movie. We learn that Vogel’s mother became terminally ill when he was a child, prompting his father to walk out, leaving the children with a soon-to-be-deceased mother. He carries the pain of this event, and the subsequent anger, into adulthood. This is where we find him: angry and in pain and without the understanding of how to cope with the trauma of his childhood. 


It is in the midst of all of this anger and pain that Vogel meets Mr. Rogers, the subject of an assignment for his magazine. Though he feels rather cheated for being assigned an article on someone so seemingly childish, Vogel boards a train to Pittsburgh and soon finds himself immersed in The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, and, more importantly, Fred Rogers. While Vogel has a hard time figuring Mr. Rogers out and determining if he’s the man everyone thinks he is, the two soon develop a close relationship. This relationship blossoms throughout the movie in a way that reveals to viewers that Fred Rogers really was the same man that he was on his show, in that he cared intimately about everyone and wanted them to feel it. 


The nostalgia surrounding the movie is a great deal of what makes it so moving. The audience is thrown back into a world where Mr. Rogers, who has now been dead for 17 years, is speaking to us. He tells us that we are loved, valued, and important -- a message we need to hear as much now as we did when we were children. While the majority of us who grew up watching Mr. Rogers probably never had the opportunity to meet him in person, we felt a connection to him as though we had. Fred Rogers was somehow able to convey to every child that he appreciated them in a way that was so intimate and personal that, as children, we had no doubt that Mr. Rogers truly knew and cared about us on an individual level.


The movie reminds us what it was like to be a child, but, perhaps more importantly, it reminds us that we are just grown-up versions of the children we once were, still deserving of compassion and understanding.