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A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

‘Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood’ was an American children’s TV series which ran for decades. Akin to ‘Sesame Street’, it covered various everyday issues as hosted by the perennially jovial host Fred Rogers. ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’ spins a semi-fictional tale conveying how influential the show became. Marielle Heller’s stylish direction elevates the film with the appropriately cast Tom Hanks leading the charge.

Writing for the fabled Esquire magazine in 1998, journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is jaded about life. Although recently becoming a new father, his world view is steeped in cynicism. When asked to write an article on ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood’ host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), Lloyd glumly agrees. What transpires is a life-changing experience with Rogers’ outlook shining a light on Lloyd’s often bleak existence.

With the subject matter and Hanks in the lead, it would be easy to dismiss ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’ as ‘Forrest Gump part 2’. Occasionally it veers into sentimentality, but it offers strong, emotional moments about forgiveness and moving on without feeling preachy. Hank’s performance is a study in controlled optimism and Rhys equally as good with his characters opposite outlook on a fractured life.

‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’ also looks at how influential early childhood television can be. Without treating young viewers like imbeciles, Rogers explained topics in a matter of fact easy manner which transcended generations. The drama and pathos are effectively balanced and told simply like one of his shows. The story slowly and effectively draws you in towards a low-key but satisfying conclusion.

Whilst some Australian audiences may be unfamiliar with Fred Rogers, ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’s themes are universal. It also reveals how the ability to educate as well as entertain can be an art-form few can genuinely do. It’s the type of movie making you want to learn more about its subject, which is a mark of success to which any biopic aspires.

Rating out of 10: 7

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