8.5/10 I put last year’s incredible documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” as the 2nd best film of 2018 and it was probably the most moving film of that year as well. This film excels in the sense that it doesn’t solely focus on Fred Rogers and those directly around him like the documentary did, but instead splits the focus between Mr. Rogers and Lloyd Vogel, a pessimistic journalist with some serious anger and daddy issues. Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers and Matthew Rhys as Vogel give phenomenal performances and are both equally matched here. There was no need to only focus on Mr. Rogers since you can (and should) check out the documentary that already does that. This film instead focuses on the true story of how Mr. Rogers developed a friendship with a broken man and helped turn his life around. The score perfectly encapsulates the music of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” for both somber and upbeat moments of the film, lending the film a mixture of childlike wonder and adult reality. The editing and scene transitions brilliantly utilize the toy props/car/airplanes/land/buildings from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, which was very creative. Perhaps the film’s biggest strength was the real emotions behind its story. Fred Rogers helped so many people throughout the span of his lifetime and even though many focus on the children who he helped, we often forget the adults that Fred touched and how adults need love just as much as children do. The themes of love, kindness, forgiveness, etc. are forever timely, moving and poignant. What could have been a straight forward retelling of what we already knew about Mr. Rogers is elevated by director Marielle Heller’s use of unique imagery, dream sequences, thoughtful transitions and her stylistic approach. You might get a little more out of the film if you have seen “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and you will definitely notice some of the details this film offers. For example, the documentary comments on how Fred Rogers really valued silence and didn’t feel the need to fill dead space on his show. In this film, to honor Fred’s thoughts on silence, silence is incorporated perfectly into the film with either a lack of score/soundtrack during certain scenes or one scene in particular where our lead characters literally sit in silence for a minute, just thinking. Some viewers might find these moments a little slow or dull, but then they are missing the point of what Mr. Rogers was all about. The only complaints I could find were very minor and in no way interfered with my enjoyment of this terrific film. I think the script could have delved slightly deeper into Jerry Vogel’s character and since we got a great look into Andrea Vogel’s character, it would have been nice to see a little more of Joanne Rogers. Minor nitpicks aside, this feel good film is a great choice to watch around the holidays. It will tug on your heart strings in all the right ways and if you’re like me, you might shed some tears. Along with the documentary, this is definitely a neighborhood worth taking a visit to as soon as possible.
#YourMostVogelSupporter / #FredAndBreakfast / #MusicByRightSaidFred / #TheFruitsOfOnesNeighbor / #HappyTrolleyDays / #ARedSweaterDay