While I did not grow up watching “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” there was always a part of me that was fascinated by the show. The only time I ever caught it on television was in elementary school, and I recall finding the experience pleasant and relaxing. This was due entirely to Fred Rogers caring, welcoming demeanor that made me feel like I was his neighbor. As a kid, Fred Rogers felt like someone who would always be there for you and cared very deeply about what I had to say. As an adult, he’s a role model on how to treat everyone with respect, kindness and empathy. But one thing he’s always been is a constant reminder of the good within all of us.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is a documentary that reminds of all these factors, as it covers the life and career of Fred Rogers, from his decision to not be a minister and instead try a career in television to his death and the impact that had on the entire world. All while showing us a path towards human decency that Fred Rogers embodied at every point in his life. Even as someone who didn’t watch much of his show, this documentary immediately made me look up to him as a man who treated every person like a significant and important individual.
The documentary is as charming and sweet as Fred Rogers was, even taking the time to get to know the many interviewees and the impact Mr. Rogers had on their lives. Every aspect of his life is covered, including his home life and if he was as kind and welcoming to his family as he was on camera, while always remaining honest to who he was and his principals of everyone being special. Yet the film remains patient throughout, taking it’s time to show just how methodical and calculated Mr. Rogers was with children and their intelligence.
But the biggest thing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” does is remind us of the loving life philosophy of Fred Rogers. How he treated every child, every adult, no matter what they looked or sounded like, as if they’re the most important person in the world. Because in the end, we all want to be loved for who we are. We want to be seen and recognized for our individuality, whether we earn it or simply wish to know that someone out there cares. Mr. Rogers embodied that ideal at every moment of his life and never once stopped believing that every single person is special and should be loved for that reason.
Even if you’ve never seen “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” like me or never got into the show, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” will win you over with its charm, patience, honesty and philosophy. It reminds us just how amazing Fred Rogers was in his simplicity and personality, without shying away from the darker times of his career. I had a constant grin on my face during this documentary and even cried a few times when the impact of Mr. Rogers was made clear, and I know that I will forever honor his legacy and his ideology.
Final Grade: A