Culture

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

A film spending kindness and harboring forgiveness hits theaters November 22, 2019. by Daniel Schwarz

In these trying times, when it seems as though hatred and violence have become all too present in communities throughout the world, a movie has come along that may just inspire us to spread kindness and harbor forgiveness toward those who have wronged us. That film is “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

Starring Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” has been widely discussed on social media in the months leading up to its release. For good reason. Having hosted “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” from 1968 until 2001, Fred Rogers has held an indelible presence in the lives of several generations of children. He has taught so many of us the importance of love, kindness and forgiveness. In an era when these values are sorely needed to be demonstrated, there is no better time for us to reconnect with the man who taught them to us.

If you grew up with Mr. Rogers as your neighbor, it will be impossible to watch the film without smiling as the nostalgia sweeps over you. Tom Hanks delivers an outstanding performance as always. He is able to channel Fred Rogers’ mannerisms and compassionate spirit without giving you the sense that he is impersonating him. You really feel as though you are watching Fred Rogers on the screen. The other actors in the film, including Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson and Chris Cooper, also deliver inspiring performances. The film is set in 1998, as Lloyd Vogel, a cynical magazine writer (played by Rhys), is given the task of interviewing the venerable children’s TV host. Throughout the film, it becomes clear that his experiences with Rogers will have a profound impact not only on his life, but on the lives of so many others he knows.

As you watch the film, you will also be inspired by the ways in which the film demonstrates how Fred Rogers’ Christian faith factored into his life and work. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, faith was central to Rogers’ mission of reaching out to children. As he once said, “The space between the TV screen and whoever is watching is very holy ground.” That philosophy is made clear throughout the movie. There is a montage in the film in which Rogers is heard praying for others as he swims laps in a pool. As Tom Junod’s Esquire article “Can You Say… Hero?” (upon which this film is based) details, this was a daily morning ritual in Rogers’ life. It is reassuring to see that a film which will undoubtedly reach so many millions of viewers has recognized the important role that faith plays in inspiring us to make the world a better place.

As you leave the theater—most likely smiling as you wipe a few remaining tears from your eyes—you will hopefully look back on the film and realize that it perfectly exemplifies Mark 12:31: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” May this film inspire you to do just that.

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