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Won't You Be My Neighbor?


Stars: Fred Rogers

Director: Morgan Neville

Interesting that this touching documentary comes out the same week as The Grinch, as the much-loved American children's TV host Fred Rogers was in many ways the antithesis of the green Scrooge. He believed in the goodness of mankind and that everyone was special in themselves.

With the looks of David Strathairn and the voice of James Stewart, he got through to children in a persuasively direct way that few people have, before or since. And he became a national institution through the medium of his two low-budget shows, running through more than 1200 episodes from 1961 to 2001, two years before his death.

Trained for the ministry, he became more interested in television as a means of communication, and of helping to bring the country together. The quavering songs, simple but effective comedy, piano-playing, deliberately-spoken philosophy and puppetry were all the relaxed Rogers.

And the main show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, while a magnet for children, tackled, in its veiled but target-conscious way, some serious subjects along the way, in a manner few other kids' shows would have dreamed of. Its host's homespun, but uniquely articulated philosophy of loving yourself for who you were and loving others, is reminiscent of another all-American Rogers, Will, decades earlier.

This beguiling and moving film transcends its occasional talking-heads approach to emerge as a fitting tribute to a simple, but amazingly persuasive and quietly magnetic man.

David Quinlan

USA 2018. UK Distributor: Park Circus. Colour (unspecified).
94 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 09 Nov 2018