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With Jim Sabatini

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Rated: PG-13 for some thematic elements and language.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: June 8, 2018 Released by: Focus Features

Not a diatribe or hagiographic, Morgan Neville's latest documentary offers much food for thought with wistfully tenderness.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? features the star of the memorable long-running television show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood - Fred Rogers, an ordained minister having an "abiding interest in young children." He opted to use mass media to help impressionable minds in their formative years in a ruminative, unhurried manner. He reached out with wholesomeness against consumerism that lured in youngsters in disrespectful programming, which included violent tendencies in cartoons, instead of entering the seminary.

Neville deftly uses old clips with Rogers (who lost his bout with cancer in 2003) not just at his idyllic set, as well as those closest to him, including behind-the-scenes colleagues to ensure a nuanced evaluation. There was a perspicuity about the intimacy of the small-screen regarding awareness and real sense of a collective from a nation. Also, other interviewees reflecting on his life during a less hectic, complex period about an "evangelist for television" where much educational potential was there in terms of culture and science

But the revenue stream hasn't made for much unity at least in the eyes of executives and where the country is now given its outspoken Commander-In-Chief. So, his placid show was sensitized to vulnerability and the importance of humanity on the way to adulthood. Rogers didn't avoid the racial and political turbulence (in the show's early days) — as war and assassination was addressed, as well as a calmative foot bath shared with black character Officer (Francois) Clemmons. His off-hours proclivities came back to Rogers who would be looking in the best interest of the show, but finally displayed tolerance to go along with his patience and dignity even when it came to matters of life and death.

The affection of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood had an oddly transporting quality, even in simple instances with a light-bulb or egg-timer. Though Rogers wasn't immune to emotional stress like morale or misery and talking-animal puppet Daniel was there to engage his susceptible side. Even if Fred Rogers real-life self was basically like what viewers experienced from recollections of family and friends.

The reasoning and idealism of a once trendy practical application of science (especially in an age with streaming services, video-on-demand, etc.) might be foreign and passé, but could be a means not to be lost in our nifty devices. Neville enkindles the realization in Won't You Be My Neighbor? through a remarkable, amicable man that honor and generosity is possible by learning to come to terms with the seismic shifts in broadcasting and, in turn, each other.

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