I should start this off by saying I have little to no experience with documentaries. Sure I’ve watched some in the past, many of which I liked, but it’s not a genre of filmmaking that I’m overly familiar with, especially when it comes to critique. I only bring this up because I’m going to be writing this review in a different way than my previous ones because it is much harder for me to discuss and articulate my feelings on this type of film as a opposed to one with a more traditional structure but I’m going to try my best to get my feelings across in a good way.
“Mister Rogers Neighborhood” isn’t exactly a television show I have many memories of. I don’t doubt that I watched it at some point as a child but I was most likely at such a young age that it didn’t really leave an impact on me. Now even though I have no nostalgic connect to Fred Rogers TV show, I still chose to watch this documentary because I thought it looked very interesting. And I was right. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is an absolute joy from start to finish and I cannot recommend enough. Everything in this documentary is coated with the love and admiration for the legacy that Fred Rogers left behind and I think that the direct, Morgan Neville, did a superb job at showing just what kind of person Rogers really was.
One of my favorite aspects of the documentary was that it showed a more human side to Fred Rogers. One of my biggest worries going into this film was that it was only going to focus on the positive life aspects of Mister Rogers life while only grazing over some of his more intimate feelings but I was pleasantly surprised when they brought up some of his insecurities. He was nervous about his work, and he didn’t know if he could carry the weight that his name brought, he also got annoyed with the various parodies that were made about him, he even had negative thoughts on his own self-worth, which were expressed by the puppet character “Daniel”. All of these points helped show how deep of a man he was and it even highlighted a lot of the smart writing and nuances of his own show. It showed how much Fred Rogers cared about his work and how deeply dedicated he was to not only educating children, but teaching them how to understand not only one another, but themselves.
I suppose if I did have one complaint about the film it’s that it doesn’t really delve into Rogers’s childhood too much. It does touch onto it explaining how he was raised and he was expected to act and some of the childhood inflictions that he faced but other than that it doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail. It also doesn’t touch upon how Rogers met his wife and how his wife and kids helped impact his work, but this documentary isn’t so much a full look into his life as it is a look into the televised career of Fred Rogers. I will say that this is nitpicking and it really doesn’t hold the film back in any huge way, but I did feel like it was worth pointing out.
I don’t want to discuss too much more of the documentary because I genuinely want more people to see it. I’m not kidding when I say I cried 3 different times during it, it got me that hard. I really cannot say enough good things about this film, I highly recommend it even if you only have a minute amount of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood”. The documentary is that good and it shouldn’t be missed.