Sundance Movie Review: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Many of us grew up watching “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” on PBS. Morgan Neville’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” explores Rogers rise to stardom, inner feelings, and how he impacted young American children. We see a side of the neighborhood that wasn’t always seen.

Fred Rogers wasn’t destined to become a celebrity among children. There was just something about his personality and the way he clicked with children that led him to television. The film shows Fred Rogers journey from being a minister to wanting to make a change in the way children perceived television. He slowly built a groundbreaking relationship between children and the television. In 1968 the first episode of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” was released. Since then Rogers has been singing his way into homes all over America.

Through this documentary we learn that Fred Rogers wasn’t always as emotionally aware. As a child he was known as Fat Freddy and experienced bullying. This led him to learn how to deal with his emotions and become self aware. His mission was to help children know how to deal with the different emotions that come in life. During this point in the film showing tears were shed and tissues could be heard throughout the audience. It showed a very vulnerable side of a TV star.

The documentary also highlights the parallels between the show and the real world. Rogers would write the show so that it corresponded with events that were occurring in the real world. He believed this would help children learn and be aware of what was going on around them, but in a gentle way. The film also took a strange turn as we neared the end of Fred Rogers life. It addresses criticism that Rogers received. Many people criticized Rogers because he told everyone they were special and that created a sense of entitlement in a generation of children. Clearly these people were not getting the real message of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

The focal message of this film was love. Fred Rogers life was centered everyday around love, loving your neighbor, and loving yourself. This film will make you laugh as you see behind the scenes of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. It will also bring out some emotions as it paints a picture of a man whose life was dedicated to empowering children. If you want to take your own visit to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood the film will be available in theaters June 8.