When we’re children, life seems incomprehensible and strange, an amalgamation of emotions that we aren’t sure how to navigate. But as it turns out, that doesn’t change much when we’re adults. We are a mess of traumas and confusion, trying to go through life like we’re fine when we’re very much not. This is where the incomparable Mr. Rogers comes in, a soothing wave of compassion and empathy who wants us all to know it is OK to be angry sometimes. In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Marielle Heller’s latest film after Can You Ever Forgive Me?, journalist Tom Junrod is a stand-in for all of us, a ball of resentment and fear that learns how to parse those feelings through red-cardigan-clad Fred Rogers.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Is based on Junrod’s 1998 profile of Rogers that appeared in Esquire magazine. Matthew Rhys plays Junrod, who at the time was a jaded journalist who was desperate to find out the worst things about humanity. He digs at people, writing exposes and long pieces of investigative journalism. So he is shocked when his editor assigns him to a puff piece about Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks), famed children’s TV show host. What Junrod expects to just be a short interview about a joyous old man becomes a transformative process where he learns how to process his trauma and forgive his father.