Review of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (2018)

For those that have grown up being neighbors with Fred Rogers this documentary is such an eye opener about the man behind the sweaters.

It’s been 17 years since Fred Rogers appeared in front of a camera. I feel old just thinking about the fact that there’s an entire era of soon-to-be adults that haven’t grown up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001). For those that have grown up being neighbors with Fred Rogers this documentary is such an eye opener about the man behind the sweaters. 

This documentary is from the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom). The entire film is comprised of show clips, real life footage, behind the scenes clips,  newsreel, and interviews from the cast, crew, friends, and family members of Mister Rogers. Between sections there’s animated parts of Daniel Tiger with voice over. 

What the audience finds out about Mister Rogers is that the man in the colorful sweaters wasn’t a friendly facade. The man in front of the camera was also the man when the cameras were off. The documentary doesn’t showcase Fred Rogers as a perfect model of a man. It also shows the many flaws and how he dealt with them.

Most of the documentary details why Mister Rogers and his children’s show was so different from all the other television programming designed to children. It also explains why the show and the host were needed.

The emotional impact of the documentary will effect even the most hardened viewer, including the writer of this review. How I know this is that throughout the movie there were sniffles and even some nose blowing. I can safely assume this was from the emotional impact because the film debuted in July and there’s not that many summer colds in one theater. If you don’t at the very least tear up you are dead inside.

I came out of the theater simply marveled by not only the quality of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but moved by the love, care, and attention Fred Rogers gave towards his life’s work which was the development of children.

While this isn’t a film you had to see in theaters, it’s definitely one of the best to see when compared to some of the other films that share a movie theater with Won’t You Be My Neighbor? If you’ve grown up watching Mister Rogers, but never researched the man or the show I’d highly recommend watching it because, if nothing else, you’ll come away learning something new and important about life. And really, learning about something new and important about life is what Fred Rogers labored tirelessly for all his life. 

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James Master

A natural born reader, James tackled the works of Stephen King and Michael Crichton when he was in the sixth grade. His influential young mind, now twisted by the science fiction and horror genre, James did what any respectable young man would. He began crafting stories. Instead of playing in recess, James would write stories about dinosaurs and serial killers. He hasn’t stopped writing or reading which is where his path crossed with Burning Willow Press, LLC. Ironically enough, you can find James’s first published work, “The Dark Forest,” in the anthology “Crossroads in the Dark II: Urban Legends” published by Burning Willow Press. His first book, “The Book of Roland” published Feb. 25, 2017, is a 2017 Summer Indie Book Award nominee. It is the first of seven in the Soul Eater Chronicles and it is centered around a katana wielding, gunslinging, pop culture referencing monk named Timothy as he fights the incarnations of the Seven Deadly Sins. His next book, “The Book of Mark”, is scheduled to come out early 2018. James graduated from Indiana University South Bend with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Minor in Film Studies in 2015. By day, James works as a mild-mannered reporter for The Pilot News as well as an editor for the weekly paper The News-Mirror. By night, he works for BWP reading submissions or writing his own works.
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