Director: Morgan Neville
Stars: Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers, John Rogers, Jim Rogers
Release Date: June 29, 2018

You know a movie is powerful when it has possibly more resonance and emotional punch in the years following its release compared to its opening. Such is the case of Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the 2018 documentary piece depicting the remarkable live of Fred Rogers.

Director Morgan Neville makes the idyllic in a the most plausible way possible. Mr. Rogers legitimately has no ill-intentions. His patience is renowned, and his cadence of speech is harmonious. Despite actually never having actually watched the show it’s based upon; Won’t You Be My Neighbor is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen over the past five years.

The plot of the movie is simple. It’s a documentary about Mr. Fred Rogers that touches on all aspects of his live, but journeys most deeply when talking about the inspiration of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. His love for the show and its pure vision of teaching children valuable lessons is spotlighted most when Mr. Rogers must go speech in front the Senate for the money being granted to PBS. He was forced to do so when President Richard Nixon threatened to cut funding for the media, because he’d rather dismantle it and disgrace it then work with it during the controversy of the Vietnam war.

Senator Pastore is his main advisory in getting the money. Mr. Rogers must adjust his speech because Pastore doesn’t want someone reading off a page. The former pastor speaks directly to Pastore with polite conviction. His voice never raises but his passion for talking about feelings and what they mean wins of the Senator. It’s a moment that shows not only does Mr. Rogers have to ability to touch the developing mind of kids, but also the ability to reshape the hearts and convictions of adults.

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood ends on what may have been the most trying time for himself. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, Rogers came out of retirement to try and calm the nation. In Won’t You Be My Neighbor we see how nervous he is to speak on the subject. Mr. Rogers didn’t shy away from any serious topics while airing his show, diving into the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the Iron Hostage Crisis and Challenger shuttle explosion. But before his speaking on 9/11, he says “I just don’t know what good these are gonna do.”

But what he says in those vides, and what was highlighted in the documentary, prove how Mr. Fred Rogers is possibly the nicest and most humane person to ever walk the earth. To quote biography.com, “His words demonstrated that the attacks hadn’t destroyed his faith in neighborliness and provided a vision for how to move forward in a different world.” I am not sure if Mr. Rogers was ever hired as a speech writer, but he could make an immense amount of money doing so.

There are so many stories in this documentary that touch on the heart strings. These are but two of the ones that touched me most, so watch the film itself and let those that affect you most sweep over you.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is an absolute delight to watch. How it was SHAFTED at the 2019 Academy Awards is beyond me. It makes it two straight years the best documentary (in my eyes) didn’t even get nominated for an Oscar. In 2020, it was Apollo 11 that got forgotten. Though one thing can be most certain, and that’s that Mr. Fred Rogers won’t be forgotten, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor will be there to remind people who have forgotten.

STANKO RATING: A (4.5/5 Stars)

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” IMDB
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” Rotten Tomatoes

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