Mr Rogers in Won't You Be My Neighbor

Won’t You Be My Neighbor Directed by Morgan Neville

“Love is at the root of everything. Love or the lack of it.” This simple yet profound emphasis on love is at the heart of the philosophy espoused by Mr Rogers. Mr Rogers was a TV star, student of childhood development, and minister. In the feature-length documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Director Morgan Neville deftly tells the story of this unlikely yet fully likable icon.

Watching the tv show Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood was a memorable part of my childhood years. The puppets, the train to the Land of Make-Believe, the neighbors who would drop by, and the guests were all part of my earliest television-watching experience. And I know that I’m not alone. But it was watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor that offered me a true appreciation of the impact of this carefully crafted show for children.

Fred Rogers in Won't You Be My Neighbor

Fred Rogers on the set of his show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood from the film, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Jim Judkis / Focus Features

Behind the Scenes at Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood

Throughout the film, Neville integrates archival footage from the show with vintage and current interviews with former cast members, crew, Mr Rogers’ family members, and more. It is a masterful piece of storytelling. Neville shares a comprehensive view of Fred Rogers’ determination and persistence in creating his vision. That vision included a sensitivity to how his show supported the milestones of child development as well as accepting and learning how to modulate the emotional ups and downs that are just part of being a kid. And it also reveals the story of how Mr Rogers was able to use his platform as a subtle yet non-dogmatic ministry. The film reveals that it was a ministry that emphasized the importance of love, acceptance, listening, community, and more philosophical cornerstones.

I found it both surprising and enlightening to learn more about Mr Rogers’ innovative commitment to progressive social ideals. Particularly when seen from today’s perspective, these ideals felt even more powerful and relevant.

Won't You Be My Neighbor Film Poster

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is thoughtful and moving. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house in the screening I attended. At the same time, this film provides a full portrait of someone living a life of kindness while acknowledging the complexity that comes with it. By the closing credits, I appreciated Mr Rogers even more. I also appreciated the lessons of acceptance, kindness, and unconditional love that he lived by and shared with millions.

See Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Won’t You Be My Neighbor opens in select theaters nationwide on June 8. Learn more at: focusfeatures.com/wont-you-be-my-neighbor/

Felicia M. Tomasko
Felicia Tomasko has spent more of her life practicing Yoga and Ayurveda than not. She first became introduced to the teachings through the writings of the Transcendentalists, through meditation, and using asana to cross-train for her practice of cross-country running. Between beginning her commitment to Yoga and Ayurveda and today, she earned degrees in environmental biology and anthropology and nursing, and certifications in the practice and teaching of yoga, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda while working in fields including cognitive neuroscience and plant biochemistry. Her commitment to writing is at least as long as her commitment to yoga. Working on everything related to the written word from newspapers to magazines to websites to books, Felicia has been writing and editing professionally since college. In order to feel like a teenager again, Felicia has pulled out her running shoes for regular interval sessions throughout Southern California. Since the very first issue of LA YOGA, Felicia has been part of the team and the growth and development of the Bliss Network.