FOR Americans, a film about Mr Rogers is akin to a biopic of The Wiggles.
Though A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not a strict biopic of Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), who hosted the preschool TV series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood from 1968 to 2001, teaching generations of American children how to understand the world through the mediums of song and puppetry.
The protagonist of this film is Esquire magazine journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), who is assigned the job of interviewing him for a short article.
Like any good journalist, Lloyd wants to find out about the person behind the persona, but he finds Mr Rogers off screen to be exactly the same as onscreen, with an unsettlingly habit of turning Lloyd’s questions back on himself.
Although at first cynical and resentful of Mr Rogers’ attempts to talk to him about his troubled relationship with his father, Lloyd is drawn into his spell of kindness and warmth.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood immerses you in the world of Mr Rogers by partly presenting Lloyd’s story inside the format of the original TV program, often in quite surreal ways.
Both Hanks and Rhys excel as their respective characters; Lloyd’s bite and snark is a balm to Mr Rogers’ persistent calm and stillness, and vice versa.
Incredibly sentimental in a way only Americans know how, the film works because both Mr Rogers and Hanks are embodiments of that unabashed sentimentality and, like Lloyd, you cannot help falling under their spell.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PG)
Director: Marielle Heller
Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson
In cinemas January 23