Movie Review: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I don’t think I’ve ever done a movie review on the blog, but I feel the need to share and reflect on this wonderful documentary.

I have vague memories watching Mr. Rogers growing up; his kind face, his sweaters, his assuring voice. I didn’t know what to expect of the movie, but I was quickly lost in the fascinating world of Mr. Rogers.

His character on TV was not just a persona, it was exactly who he was. I was surprised to learn that he was a minister (and republican!), but none of those details mattered–the only thing he preached of was love. He embodied Carl Rogers’ concept of “unconditional positive regard,” which is the idea that an individual is loved and lovable no matter what they say or do.

To Mr. Rogers, every child has a right to unconditional positive regard. What a powerful, simple concept.

He discussed emotionally painful situations like divorce, assassination, and 9/11 with kids. Often people feel the need to shelter kids from these events, but children sense when something is wrong–and they deserve to know. Mr. Rogers knew that and knew exactly how to tell them.

I was young when 9/11 happened and asked my mom, “There were not any people on the plane, right?” I don’t know how she answered, but I know it was a good answer. My parents mirrored Mr. Rogers approach–they always told us the truth in a way we could understand, no matter how painful.

The movie explores Mr. Rogers deeply as a person; he had so much grit, passion, and kindness in his heart. He seemed to never waver, but partway through the movie we learn that was not the case. Even he was not perfect. He has self-doubt and questions, but he always chose to persevere because he knew children needed help.

He have a commencement speech, and part of it was included in the movie. One line: “Take a full minute and think about someone who has loved you into being. The timer starts now.”

I thought about this phrase and tears slowly started coming. I thought of my high school boyfriend, someone who has come up frequently in the blog over the past year. He died from an overdose about a year ago; it rocked me to my core and continues to rock me. He loved be into being. He loved me into knowing I was enough, lovable, special.

“Thank you, Max, for loving me into being” I thought. It wasn’t sadness about his death that was bringing me tears, but instead tears of gratitude that I experienced that kind of unconditional love and acceptance so young. My parents always gave me that love, but it’s the first time I felt it in someone who was not in my family–and that gives a different feeling.

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is a must-see; it adds so much depth to the staple childhood show. Mr. Rogers was not simply the character, he was that person. He was kind, loving, and generous–those kinds of people can exist and can make amazing change in the world. The movie also prompts self-reflection that went far beyond what I expected (I know I didn’t expect to cry!).

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Have you watched Mr. Rogers? Did you see the movie?

Hannah

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