Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

wont you be my neighbor poster 2018 movie
9.0 Overall Score

Great subject and interesting documentary

Could have even been longer

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Studio:  Tremolo Productions

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  January 19, 2018 (Sundance)/June 8, 2018 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

wont you be my neighbor fred rogers koko gorilla

Koko was a Mr. Rogers fan

Fred Rogers might not always be considered a rebel, but what he did was revolutionary.  As Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood grew in popularity, Fred Rogers became a symbol of childhood.  Taking a different approach to TV teaching, Mr. Rogers slowed down and taught through subtle actions instead of overt action.  As times change, Mr. Rogers had to find new ways to talk to children…and Mr. Rogers might be exactly what the world needed.

Directed by Morgan Neville, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a documentary about Fred Rogers.  The film was released to praise and a strong box office (especially for a documentary).

Like most kids, I grew up watching Mr. Rogers.  It is something that you can’t remember being introduced to because it was always part of your life.  Watching the documentary, I can remember some of the specific episodes shown (I forgot about the snowmen episode which kind of freaked me out).  Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a great look back that a show that was edgier than you ever thought.

wont you be my neighbor fred rogers officer clemmons francois scarborough

Rogers breaks the race barrier slyly…and almost breaks the sexuality barrier.

The movie’s “story” is composed largely of interviews and archive clips of Fred Rogers.  It sometimes takes you into Rogers’ personal life with interviews with his wife and children, but mostly explores him through his relationship to the show and his television audience…which is smart since that is how people knew him.  Through these interactions he is explored and you can see how the show changed things even if it seemed like a simple show for kids.  It explored war, death, and racism…all in a way a child could understand.

It was good to see the living players of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  I really liked looking back on characters like Joe Negri, David Newell (Mr. McFeely), and François Clemmons (Officer Clemmons) and see people who knew Mr. Rogers.  Betty Aberlin was supposedly asked to be involved but didn’t feel comfortable being on camera, but it would have been nice to hear from her since I closely associate her with the show (and she was involved for so long).  Through the people talked to and archival footage, it does a good job trying to give Fred Rogers a rounded persona.

wont you be my neighbor fred rogers 9-11 promo

Mr. Rogers returns for 9-11…what would he do now?

Morgan Neville is a pretty skilled documentary maker.  His previous films Best of Enemies and 20 Feet from Stardom were interesting looks at microcosms of the music world and a period in television history.  This is a different story for Neville and though he has a ton of footage he could source, he seems to get a good balance of interviews and classic footage (though I could watch hours and hours of behind the scene Mr. Rogers footage).

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? could have easily have been a long-form TV Mini-Series because it is pretty compelling.  As good as it is, I wish it was even deeper…the glimpses of Fred’s life you get are insightful, but could have gone longer.  The movie is nice and sweet and leaves you wonder what Mr. Rogers would think of the world that continued after he left it…would he still fight the good fight or would he have given up?  The world needs a Mr. Rogers, and I hope he would have kept fighting.

Related Links:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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