Sundance Film Festival reviews: Mr. Rogers’ love and hope abound in “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
By Jenniffer Wardell
Directed by Morgan Neville
Grade: Three and a half stars
If you love Mr. Rogers, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” will only make you love him more. If you didn’t, it might be enough to change your mind.
The documentary, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and will be released commercially this June, is a sweet, insightful, ultimately moving look at the mind and heart behind “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.” The documentary alternates archival footage, much of it behind the scenes, with several of the people who knew him best. The tone is very warm and welcoming, intertwined with lovely, subtle animation that highlights some of the comments from those being interviewed.
The movie addresses some of the “conspiracy theories” that have cropped up about Rogers – from the stories about him being gay or a Marine to the idea that he’s somehow to blame for today’s narcissistic society – and has the people who knew them best gently deflate all of them. They also bring up his sense of humor and address the insecurities that Rogers genuinely did feel, some springing from his childhood. Together, they make him seem more human and ultimately that much more loveable.
The documentary even manages to sneak in a message at the end, designed to send people out of the theater feeling hope and determined to do something to improve the world. It’s exactly what Mr. Rogers himself would have wanted.