“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” stars Fred Rogers, François Clemmons, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Negri, David Newell, and Joanne Rogers. Released on June 8, 2018, the film explores the life and legacy of Fred Rogers.
The film is directed by Morgan Neville, who also directed films such as “The Cool School”, “20 Feet from Stardom”, and “Best of Enemies”. Fred Rogers was one of television’s greatest treasures due to his kind and neighborly ways in his show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”. His work, on-screen and off, inspired many children to make the world a better place to live in. This year, it’s time for me to learn a bit more about this man and the show that he created. “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was one of the shows that I remembered watching when I was little. It was always nice for me to see Rogers be so cheerful as he talked about the values of life. As I was growing up, I seemed to have forgotten all about it until I saw a trailer for this film a few months ago. Watching that trailer brought me back to my childhood days of viewing the show. That’s when I realized that I must find the right opportunity to see it. Now that I finally found that opportunity, was it as thoughtful as the popular children’s show itself?
This is my first time reviewing a full-length documentary or any other type of documentary in general because I haven’t watched a lot of documentaries during my spare time and I was more interested in films that have step-by-step storytelling. So I will do what I can to express my feelings towards something like this. The film is basically a full-on look at Fred Rogers’ entire life and career, using a variety of behind-the-scenes footage, clips from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” (including the earlier ones), and interviews from the people who knew Rogers, especially the ones who appear in the show. A documentary is like writing an essay for high school or college. The filmmakers are getting their point across by using a bunch of sources to fully answer the question, “Why should we care?”. It may seem easy to do, but in reality, it takes time, hard work, and patience to craft something as special as this, and that’s exactly what Morgan Neville needed to create a thought-provoking experience for long-time Rogers fans. Not only that, but it also works as an intelligent learning tool for those who are unfamiliar with Rogers and the show itself. Even though the film talks a little bit about Rogers’ childhood, its main focus was to explore this person during his television career and how “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” affects the young viewers and himself in a positive way. It also didn’t shy away from the emotion that it was going for, especially the ending. With all that stuff that has happened during that time, the film felt it was right to be emotional because everyone grew up watching Fred Rogers on television, and when people watch this documentary, it will feel like they were revisiting an old friend from their childhoods. This is the type of experience that the audience should be feeling, and Neville accomplished this task with flawless results.
Overall, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is not only the most thoughtful and inspiring documentary I’ve seen so far, but it’s one of the films that the world needs right now. We’re in this day and age where people are expressing nothing but negativity and violence and have forgotten what it was like to be kind and generous to one another. Fred Rogers gave us a chance to do what we can do and be what we can be to help our nation grow and to guide ourselves through our darkest hours in a language that kids can relate to. Let’s find that chance again and keep it in our hearts in honor of this wonderful man. This is a must-see for those who grew up with “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and for people who are unfamiliar with Rogers himself. Thank you, Mister Rogers, for sharing your neighborly gestures with us. You will be missed.