Time: 94 Minutes
Joanne Rogers (Fred’s widow)
John Rogers (Fred’s son)
Jim Rogers (Fred’s son)
Elaine Rogers (Fred’s sister)
François Scarborough Clemmons
Director: Morgan Neville
An exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children’s television host, Fred Rogers.
I had heard about Fred Rogers but didn’t know much about him outside of what he basically was, which was a children’s television host. I’ve also been hearing about Won’t You Be My Neighbor? for a while, the thing standing out was that it was a documentary about Rogers. Outside of recognising the name, I wouldn’t normally be interested in it but seeing a bunch of people giving it acclaim, I decided to check it out. Having seen it, I can definitely that everyone should check it out whenever you can.
I have reviewed movies, I have even reviewed seasons of television, but this is the first time I’m reviewing a documentary. So I should probably preface this by saying that I have no idea how to review a documentary, whether it be structure or what aspects to talk about. I’ll try to cover what the documentary is about and go into some detail but I won’t dive into too much about what happens because it’s all there in the movie. Fred Rogers was a unique presence on television and had a massive impact on many people, especially children. Not many people know this, but Rogers was actually an ordained minister, and felt that he could use television to reach and teach children, and he did. Now while there were plenty of television shows for children at the time, none of them really delved into important (and at times heavy and difficult) subjects in such a meaningful way like his show MisteRogers’ Neighborhood. While there were a range of subjects covered, it also included assassination, divorce, death, all of that was covered in a children’s show, which is very difficult to imagine, but Rogers pulled it off incredibly well. Fred Rogers also didn’t talk down to the children in any way, he took them seriously and connected with them on a deep and emotional level and they learned important life lessons.
This documentary covers his life, his impact, and tried to get an insight into Fred Rogers as a person. It was all very interesting to watch from start to finish, and I think that’s even the case for people who watched it not knowing much about Rogers prior. Though it doesn’t feel like this entire documentary was made to just show how good he is, even though it’s taking a very favourable view on him. This isn’t the unmasking of Fred Rogers where it reveals some deep dark secrets about him either, however it does touch upon some of his worries and anxieties that some not everyone knows about. Having watched this documentary, if this was truly featured the worst that Fred Rogers was, then he is one impressive person.
Won’t You Be My Neighbour? was well put together by director Morgan Neville. The documentary is made up of footage from tv, the shows that Fred were on, behind the scenes footage and recent interviews of his family and colleagues. Maybe the bits of animation weren’t really necessary but it was effective enough and worked for the movie, it didn’t take up a large portion of the movie anyway.
Won’t You Be My Neighbour? is a heartwarming and inspiring documentary on a very inspiring and impactful man. Really everyone should watch it, whether it be people who already know who Fred Rogers was or the people who’ve never heard of him. I think everyone will be able to get something out of this.