Non-US cinemagoers considering whether to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood would do well to first watch the excellent documentary Will You Be My Neighbour? Whilst American viewers will be familiar with late, legendary children’s entertainer Fred Rogers, those elsewhere will get a good introduction to this extraordinary man in said documentary. I confess that when I watched it earlier this year, it moved me to tears.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is not quite in the same league, although Marielle Heller’s film still tugs at heart strings, and is a fine companion piece. Indeed, there is much to praise, most obviously the brilliant casting of Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. However, this film doesn’t so much concern Rogers as journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), who interviewed him for Esquire magazine. Vogel is a cynical man estranged from his father Jerry (Chris Cooper). He initially treats Rogers with scepticism, but is gradually won over by his singular kindness and humanity. The influence of Rogers puts Vogel on a predictable but moving path towards forgiveness and family reconciliation, although I’m not sure how much of this has been exaggerated for dramatic effect.
Either way, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is a very fine piece of work with a clutch of terrific performances.
(NOTE: I saw a preview screening. This isn’t released in the UK until 31st January.)
UK Certificate: PG
US Certificate: PG