Neville’s fantastic archival footage reveals the man through his work — or at least, it reveals his philosophies, if not the childhood memories that gave Rogers the ability to understand a four-year-old’s brain, almost as if he still carried his in his cardigan pocket.
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There's more to Fred Rogers than any 93-minute documentary can contain, and it was easy for me not to lament what Neville wasn't doing and just to embrace what Rogers was.
The film can easily coast on sentimentality and nostalgia for emotion, and does so frequently and unabashed. Which is frustrating, since there are glimpses of a more complex human being throughout the film, one who would have made for a much better subject.
It captures the strength of Fred Rogers's convictions even as his gentleness and sincerity fell further out of favor.
In Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the touching and insightful survey of Rogers’ decades-spanning career from Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville (“Twenty Feet From Stardom”), the filmmaker highlights Rogers’ capacity to explore complex themes through the lens of a kid’s program that took a dead-serious approach to his young viewers’ needs.
Watching this movie is like freebasing sincerity — a scarce resource in our current entertainment hellscape. It’ll give you warm fuzzies for days.
It’s kind of hard to write about Won’t You Be My Neighbor? as a film. It’s exceptionally well-made, mind you – which shouldn’t be a huge surprise coming from Morgan Neville, who won an Academy Award for directing 20 Feet From Stardom – but beyond being a film, it’s an experience of earnestness we don’t see or hear much anymore, to the point that it’s a bit of a jolt to the system.
Fred Rogers is gone and the world is a much scarier place; this film, like a gift, briefly transports us back to the calm we felt long ago.
In his three-decade run, Rogers touched millions of souls. But the film is honest in questioning whether, in the end, he really made a difference.
Oscar winner Morgan Neville (“20 Feet From Stardom”) carves in stone the case for Rogers’ as an authentic American TV saint.