A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

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Flippin' great

There are muscles you rarely use, and it’s obvious when it comes time to use them. Some of these rarely used muscles are in your face. You can’t actively choose to flex them; they are activated subconsciously in certain situations.

I don’t know what these face ones do or what function they have but by watching this movie I knew they were there alright. They, for me at least, can only be triggered when holding back tears. There is one in particular, a muscle or tendon, that goes right across the top of my chin. I’ve tried several times since to flex it but I can’t find it. It’s reasonably rare for a movie to find that muscle trigger, but this movie..

I’m sad to say after watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, that I never knew Mr. Rogers growing up. I guess we had British children’s programming like Rainbow with Sooty and Zippy or local programs like Play School. I’m sad we missed out and I’m sad we have nothing like it now.

His children’s program dealt with emotional topics and themes that are painful and destructive. The anguish the very young can go through was what Mr. Rogers focused on. Such as sibling rivalry, divorce, moving house, death. It’s obvious the influence he has had on the lives of millions of Americans and, it would seem, for the better.

You would then think that A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a movie about Fred Rogers and his life but it’s not that straight forward at all. The main character is actually Lloyd Vogel..?! He is a very jaded journalist who is made to write an article on Mr. Rogers. And because of his own personal brokenness and a career of writing about the worst of people, he is completely skeptical of Mr. Rogers. Is he who everyone says he is and if not, who is he really?

Mr. Rogers played by the very safest pair of acting hands Tom Hanks, is late in his career. And instead of trying to convince Lloyd of who he is, that he and his on-screen persona of Mr. Rogers are one and the same, he attempts to demonstrate it.

How could a story where Fred Rogers speaking in his children’s voice holding his old tatty hand puppets reach someone like Lloyd, or me as the viewer for that matter? On paper it doesn’t make sense, but it’s balanced out by the super real and gritty story of Lloyd and his estranged father. This is the central focus of this movies tension and the emotional pain. It was truly a masterful display I was fully caught up by it.

The issues that the two were working through weren’t even that relevant to me but I could understand them. They were of a different time and space, but I empathized with them. I think those are qualities of any great movie.

I hadn’t done any preparation for A Beautiful Day as I didn’t think I would be reviewing it. To be honest, it wasn’t a movie that was even on my radar. The first act of the movie left me even more skeptical, ‘what are all these crazy pieces?’ Super simple children’s program, gritty depression. Puppet singalongs a son punches his drunken father in the face.

It’s like one of those pieces of art that look like a jumbled mess, then you walk around a bit and all the edges suddenly line up and a face or scene is revealed. The art wasn’t in the wrong place, you were! And like Mr. Rogers with Lloyd, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood just gently guides you there.

It’s marketed as a movie that brings us all together in a time of division. To me, that tagline sounded like a trick to sway your opinion on… something. But this movie is tackling those basic human needs and raw emotions like anger and resentment, selfishness and bitterness. Reminding us we’re not alone when dealing with them. We’re part of the same global family when we face them. And were all more human when we help each other through them.

I wasn’t completely successful with the muscles I never use, one escaped! But in the dark no one will see, so I didn’t make the tell-tale arm and hand movement that would give it away. I just let it evaporate on a slightly warm face. Lloyd, being much closer to the event, did not fare so well.

Fred Rogers tore down his walls with his soft but direct approach. And by its completion me and Lloyd were standing in the most perfect spot. And I think it will move you there to.



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