A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood advocates kindness and acceptance

Rarely does a movie make you truly reflect on what sort of attitude you should have towards others and yourself in your day-to-day life. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood shatters the shallow goal of mere entertainment and travels into much deeper territory, navigating real-life issues with grace and nuance.

Through the life and message of Mister Rogers (Tom Hanks), the beloved children’s TV show host, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood proposes that valuing oneself and others is what matters most in life. While Mister Rogers’ persona is central to the film’s direction and depth, the protagonist is actually Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a cynical journalist with deep-seated rage towards his father.

Lloyd is assigned to interview Mister Rogers for an article but is perplexed by the complexities that lie below the man’s apparent simplicity. As Lloyd comes to understand Fred and his philosophy of life, the unlikely friendship changes Lloyd’s life forever.

To a casual observer, the film may seem false or childish at first glance. However, due to director Marielle Heller’s skillful guidance, the film avoids any triteness or preachiness whatsoever. She masterfully balances Fred Rogers’ cheery persona with the valuable, real messages that he imparts, making the film effortlessly profound.

The film could not be the success that it is without the actors’ performances. Tom Hanks is already being mentioned in the conversation for the Best Supporting Actor award at the Oscars, and for good reason. Hanks embraces the role and brings the multilayered character of Fred to life, completely embodying Fred’s caring, lovable personality. Matthew Rhys also played his part well, making his broken character sympathetic and realistic.

In addition to the leads, the supporting cast members were also excellent. Susan Kelechi Watson, who made her film debut with the role, deserves a mention for a solid performance as Lloyd’s loving, strong-willed wife Andrea. Lloyd’s estranged father Jerry (Chris Cooper) is easy for the audience to initially loathe, but Cooper plays the character so well that the audience can ultimately sympathize with the multidimensional character despite his flaws.

Since Mister Rogers is so revered, the film needed to recreate his world faithfully. Production designer Jade Healy and her team went to great lengths to make the audience feel like they’ve stepped into the show itself.

Not only were many of the scenes filmed in the same studio in which the original show was filmed, but the film was able to seamlessly recreate the show’s instantly recognizable set, complete with the miniature renditions of neighborhoods that were so integral to the show.

The filmmakers were dedicated to getting everything right, even in the little things. They hunted down the same kind of vintage filming equipment used in the show, they used some of Rogers’ actual clothes for Hanks’ costuming and they communicated with Rogers’ widow to ensure accuracy. The attention to detail really paid off. “Everything about [the film] feels identical in a way that’s tangible … You feel like you’ve gone back in time,” said director Heller in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

The last piece in bringing Mister Rogers’ world to life was Nate Heller’s emotional, direct and beautiful score. Much of the music was piano-focused, an emphasis which is not incidental. The real Mister Rogers was an avid pianist and saw piano playing as an avenue to express one’s emotions. In the movie, Fred tells Lloyd, “We are trying to give the world positive ways of dealing with their feelings. There are many things you can do. You can play all the lowest keys on a piano at the same time. BONG!”

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a remarkable film in all respects. Its direction, acting, production design and music all combine to create a well-crafted film with a crucial overarching message to value every human being as exceptional and unrepeatable.

“I think the best thing we can do is to let people know that each one of them is precious,” says Fred with a smile. Like Lloyd, we may tend to express cynicism, anger, self-doubt and brokenness, but Mister Rogers’ words might just be what we need to be better selves and kinder neighbors.