Won't You Be My Neighbor? - Review


The legacy of Mr. Rogers is one of the most fascinating of the last century. A rise from relative fame to world shaping influence is slow, methodical, and rapid all at once. What made Fred Rogers so captivating is observed beautifully in Morgan Neville's new documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? through the standard series of interviews and footage of Fred.

The format takes few risks, sticking to the tried and true formula of interviews, animation, and found footage, but the subject is interesting enough that the film never lulls. There is an instilled sadness pervading Won't You Be My Neighbor?, contrasting the often sunny Fred Rogers. This contrast is the main pull of the film, as footage of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is shown alongside candid videos of Rogers. While it paints a fuller picture of the man, it is not a cheerier one; Rogers's life was filled with tragedy, failure, and self-ridicule, yet despite all this, he remained. Neville looks to paint a real picture of the man, not just the version his show represents.

Fred Rogers was often a philosophical man, which if you think about it makes a lot of sense, and that side of him is not ignored in Won't You Be My Neighbor?. His various forays into the adult television market are explored in full, as well as the many commencement speeches given in his later years. For those who grew up on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, this is the man you may not have seen. A wise, religious man obsessed with his love for others and the inherent need of man to be loved. Won't You Be My Neighbor? writes off naysayers in the best way, by showing rather than yelling at them.