SXSW Film Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Mister Rogers documentary reminds us of the bravery of kindness
By Katarina Brown,
12:36PM, Mon. Mar. 19, 2018
Won’t You Be My Neighbor takes the guise of documentary – and of course, in many ways it is. Watching it, you learn all about Fred Rogers and his iconic show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
In terms of pure summary, this is a documentary about a children’s TV program and the man behind it. But more importantly it’s also an escape for adults to experience the emotional freedom that Neighborhood gave to children.
“What we see or hear on the screen is who we become,” Rogers says at one point in the doc. It’s why his program always advocated for tenderness. Rogers connected with children through his show, gave them a space to feel scared or angry with the assurance of continual love. Now, director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) becomes the translator for adults. With the legacy of Rogers guiding him, Neville creates a film where vulnerability is not a gimmick, where openness is not a bargaining chip.
Rogers died in 2003 – long before Trump or many of the other political issues now pressing in – so the film doesn’t offer much in terms of answers to the contemporary crisis. Still, you’ll walk away from Won’t You Be My Neighbor with more compassion and courage than before.