I haven’t been seeing much documentaries lately, because I’d like to relate to their subjects. But when I heard great things about “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” the doc on the kind-hearted Fred Rogers (1928-2003), I just had to see it for myself. I only seen the famous intro as a kid (and we’ll get to that in a second), but I wanted to learn about him
In a world of hate and discrimination, this documentary is heartwarming on all accounts. It’s not everyday I see a movie about how even kindness can fight the darkness in our lives, and this one is one of them.
Directed by Morgan Neville (“20 Feet From Stardom”), the movie shows us Fred Rogers’ life-how he was planning to become a minister, how he used puppets and music as ways of expressing his emotions, and how he never judged anyone by their appearance. He was a very nice man.
The show was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and every episode had Mr. Rogers singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” while putting on his sweater and changing his shoes. It didn’t matter how low the production values were and how simple things were. What mattered is how Mr. Rogers cared about kids and wanted to entertain them in his own sentimental ways. No rush.
For example, he has a puppet tiger named Daniel, who is the most expressive puppet. He feels down at times, and yet, his human co-stars managed to cheer him up.
The movie gives us a few scraps about how he tried to enter Prime Time for adults, how his message about “You’re already special” left some people thinking the world owes them stuff, and how Mr. Rogers saw the violence in cartoons can corrupt children. Not every element is explored the way they should, but at least I was able to jot down his story.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” touched my heart in the ways it shows how really sentimental the famous TV star was. You meet the characters in his life, whether we’re talking about his family or co-stars, and they offer their perspectives on him. Morgan Neville does for Mr. Rogers what he did for music in “20 Feet From Stardom”-a beautiful picture.
Today’s kids are addicted to iPads or social media, and before that, we had a man who helped kids grow up. This documentary is a reminder.
Get on your Neighborhood Trolley, and go see it for yourself.