There is a context to this movie and for Indian audience unless the context is known it will be difficult for them to relate to it. It’s even more important to know the background as we are a country where we have hardly given any importance to children and their feelings and fears and worries. Kids are or have been always brushed off by their elders.
There use to be a TV show by the title ‘Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood‘, for toddlers in England. It ran from 1968 to 2001. Mr.Fred Rogers, was the Anchor/Host of this show and almost became a national hero for the way he encouraged children (and adults) to talk and think about their feelings.
The movie is inspired by an article published in Esquire in 1998 about Rogers by Tom Junod.
Matthew Rhys plays the investigative journalist, Lloyed Vogel who’s tasked by his editor to interview Mr.Fred Rogers played by Tom Hanks, for one of the magazine’s series of articles on National Heroes. Lloyed is sceptical about how a host of a children show can be casted as a National Hero, however still he approaches Mr.Rogers for an interview.
Mr.Rogers (Tom Hanks) brilliantly portrays Roger’s innocence at once elderly and childlike his imperviousness to cynicism, his scant gift for sensing people’s unhappiness. There is another track of estranged relationship between Lloyed’s father and him and Mr. Roger strikes the chord or a painful nerve. We shall talk about that later.
Mr.Rogers (Tom Hanks) is playful. full of enthusiasm and is genuienly interested and involved in what he does. When Lloyed (Matthew Rhys) meets Mr.Rogers for the very first time on the set of his show he was talking to a kid fighting with cancer under Make a Wish initiative. Mr.Rogers (Tom Hanks) is so involved in talking to the kid that the production gets delayed by 70 min so it shows the true commitment of Mr.Rogers (Tom Hanks) to his audience and his authenticity.
When Lloyed (Matthew Rhys) asks him about how he feels to be a celebrity Mr.Rogers (Tom Hanks) responds Fame is a four letter word like tape, zoom or face what ultimately matters is what we do it. when asked about what Mr.Rogers is doing with his fame he responds we are trying to give children positive ways to deal with their feelings. The first interview doesn’t yield much for Lloyed however he gets intrigued with the depth in the personality of Mr.Rogers and he starts digging deep. He watches his interviews wherein Mr.Rogers speaks about how important it is to be accepted how one is and not how one will be.
All this starts getting a deeper impact on Lloyed as he is hurt from within due to some traumatic incidents in his childhood when his father had left his ailing and bed ridden mother and his sister. This is deeply rooted in Lloyed’s unconscious mind and there is a wound he has been nursing since then. This hurt results in a brawl and a fist fight with his father in his sister’s marriage.
There are excerpts of interviews given by Mr.Rogers and Lloyed starts watching all of them to a background on Mr.Rogers and he starts rediscovering Mr.Rogers in a true light. There are some very interesting conversations between Mr.Rogers and Lloyed the one in which Lloyed asks about how to deal with pain without hurting oneself ? I believe this is the most important learning for all of us.
There are a couple of scenes worth mentioning. First in the train when the entire bogie full of people sing the title song of Mr.Roger’s show and the second in a restaurant where Mr.Rogers asks Lloyed to thank all the people in his life who loved him into being in one min. The entire restaurant becomes silent for a min as if everyone is thanking all those people who loved them. Mr.Rogers starts looking into the camera, straight to you through his eyes asking you to do the same …. I believe this is the crescendo of the movie and it leaves you with eyeful of tears and an important lesson in gratitude.
Well then movie takes the closure route as Lloyed goes back to his Father and forgives him and all ends well.
The movie makes some very important comments on parenting and how its important to let go of the emotional blockages we may have and how do they stop us from living a normal and stress free life. Bill, the Manager of Mr.Rogers tells Lloyed that Mr.Rogers likes people like Lloyed what he mans by that is people who are broken like Lloyed.
In a way we all are like Lloyed, broken somewhere in the past, in our childhood and not everyone is fortunate to meet Mr.Rogers however through this movie we can find and meet Mr.Rogers and become his neighbour and live in his neighbourhood and let go of all the baggage we have been carrying along with us.
can we ?