With those two little words—and the familiar opening song and sequence—viewers like you and me who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood are instantly transported back to the cozy, low-tech set we knew and loved.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to travel back in time, this is your chance to find out. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood may be a good choice for your next family movie night.
(For a detailed review of thematic material—including a brief fight and some mildly crude language—Focus on the Family’s PluggedIn offers a good one.)
Specifically, if you’re a foster or adoptive parent, here’s what you need to know—
1. The synopsis
This movie is a timely story about kindness in an age of cynicism.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not a biographical documentary. In fact, it’s less about Mister Rogers and more about the people Mister Rogers impacted. Specifically, the movie is about Lloyd Vogel, an embittered journalist from a broken home who must learn to forgive the father who abandoned him.
The plot is handled well, but it could raise questions for children who have experienced feelings of abandonment. Additional elements in this movie include the death of a mother, alcoholism, anger, and forgiveness.
In the words of Mister Rogers, “Children need to know that when adults make plans, sometimes they don’t work out.”
2. The message
This movie is essentially about dealing with pain.
Mister Rogers responds throughout the movie with his gentle, trademark kindness which—may come as a surprise to fans—actually has its roots in his own troubled childhood.
In one of the most profound scenes in the movie, Vogel, the cynical journalist, breaks down and admits that his hurt and anger can be traced to his dad. In response, Mister Rogers tenderly reminds him that even a deeply flawed father is worth loving because—
“He helped you become what you are.”
In fact, the entire movie is packed with powerful quotes that apply to children from hard places.
“There is no normal life that is free from pain.”
“There is always something you can do with the mad that you feel.”
“It’s hardest to forgive someone we love.”
3. The takeaway
Initially, I watched the movie to see if it was suitable for my 12-year-old son who was adopted, but I wasn’t prepared for how impactful the movie would be on me. While it’s not unsuitable for children, it’s certainly a feature-length episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for grownups.
My 7-year-old and 12-year-old enjoyed it. And I loved it.
The movie deals with the profound power and possibility of forgiveness.
Fun fact not in the movie: Fred Rogers’ only sibling Elaine was adopted when Fred was 11 years old.
Bottom line: If you take your kids to see this movie, be aware that the one who could be most affected by the story is you.
*photo courtesy of www.abeautifulday.movie
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