Won't You Be My Neighbor? 😭 Film Review


Written by Thelonia

In a time when it feels like literally everything is falling apart in flames, sometimes you need to watch something that will make you believe in goodness again. This year started off real strong in that category with cinematic masterpiece Paddington 2, but Paddington has now been joined by Won't You Be My Neighbor?, the recently released Mr. Rogers Documentary, in the "movies that made me hopeful and also cry a whole, whole lot" category for 2018.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? tracks Fred Rogers' life and career all the way up to his lasting legacy today, starting with his choice to take a break before going into the Church for good (he was ordained as a minister in 1963) to pursue an interest in Television. Mr. Rogers was particularly interested in Television as a medium to communicate with children and give them a space to grow. Though the documentary focuses on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and the surprisingly dark topics it covered (political assassination, divorce, and death only to name a few), it also covers his other TV Shows, his personal life and personal background, all of which show why he made the choices he made, and how he came to be the person we knew him to be (if only through cultural osmosis, for those of us who never watched the show in the first place).

This movie made me cry so much. It was almost surprising how much it kept hitting me emotionally (and based on the sobs I heard throughout, I wasn't alone). From songs teaching kids that it's okay to be angry to encounters with Koko the Gorilla (RIP), and especially in the last five minutes, it was full on Ghibli tears at the IFC. On the fun side, Yo-Yo Ma kept appearing since he was apparently very good friends with Fred Rogers, which was a great surprise. There was also a small child who cheerfully announced anytime an animal appeared on screen, which is always great.

Things today are rough. Even if we don't actively troll for the new upsetting news, it bleeds into our regular life. It's so easy to feel overwhelmed and depressed by the state of the world. In times like this, it's best to remember Mr. Roger's words:

“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

It can feel like the world is garbage, and to be fair, a lot of it is, but it's important now more than ever to embrace love and understanding like Mr. Rogers, while also being open and kind. Won't You Be My Neighbor? not only shows someone standing against hatred, but also how Mr. Rogers wasn't a supernatural Saint, but rather a person who chose patience and kindness. In times where those are hard qualities to hold to, it can be daunting to stand by them, but take a page out of Mr. Rogers' book and try to stand by love and understanding, even in the face of hatred and ignorance.

Won't You Be My Neighbor is currently in theaters.

Bonus Video:

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