From the first photos of Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers, I was in love with the casting of this film. Hanks doesn’t disappoint in this film about one of my favorite childhood icons.
The film really surrounds the journalist Lloyd Vogal (Matthew Rhys), a cynical new father who carries a lot of anger and resentment about his own father. When Lloyd is assigned by the editor to write a piece on Fred Rogers, Lloyd finds himself not knowing how to proceed. Rogers is Lloyd’s opposite in just about every way.
Throughout the film, themes of forgiveness and letting go resonate. Fred Rogers helps Lloyd through forgiving his father when his father is on his death bed. The introverted gentle soul that was Fred Rogers makes it known that not even he is perfect and that he also has moments filled with anger. He just chooses to deal with that anger with prayer and kindness.
His friendship with Rogers make Lloyd a better father to his own child and a better husband to his wife. Fred Rogers brings out the best in him, as he did in every kid who grew up watching his show.
The film is presented as an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and brings Lloyd and you, the viewer, directly into the world of the show. While Hanks is genuinely convincing in the role of Fred Rogers, it is also very easy to see Tom Hanks instead of Fred Rogers. It’s not a criticism, just an observation of a kind icon playing another kind icon.
I highly recommend this film, especially if you grew up watching Mr Rogers Neighborhood. It’s hard not to find yourself filled with nostalgia for the simplicity of childhood.