Documentaries are always a great learning tool for those who haven’t delved into the world that a particular film is exploring. To myself, they are a dime a dozen, due to the fact that it takes a lot for a documentary to hold my interest from start to finish. Many films in this genre take their biggest moments and spread them very thin throughout their two-hour running time and while that may work for some, it usually doesn’t for me. In my opinion, a documentary doesn’t work unless it has important things to say in each and every segment that it presents to its audience. One of the most buzzed-about documentaries of 2018 has just hit the big screen and even with everything I just mentioned, I can admit the buzz around this film is well-deserved and then some. Here’s how Won’t You Be My Neighbor? moved me and why I believe it will move most viewers.
This film follows the life of Fred Rogers. Through interviews and old footage from sets or real locations, its main job is to showcase how truly terrific of a person this man really was. Meshing that aspect with the fact that he was secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) representing the real world, and all of its harshnesses, through his puppets or even personal examples on his show, made for a very emotional experience in my eyes. The conclusion of this film moved me to tears and will probably make quite a few audience members reflect on everything they’ve done throughout their life, whether good or bad. Whether you want to believe it or not, I think this is the film that’s needed today.
This film hits on a lot of important issues, so when I dive into this particular one, please don’t think of it as a spoiler for the movie. There is a moment when an interviewee is asked about television nowadays and he responds along the lines of, “There just isn’t enough room on television today for a nice guy.” From re-runs of classic shows to the amount of R-rated content being provided even on Netflix or primetime television, you’d think that someone out there would give the green light to a show that would teach lessons to kids. Many audiences and critics say that we are in the golden age of television, but shows like this need to be around forever. This man’s material was clearly inspired and this film only gives you hope that someone will come along with as much passion as he did in being a television icon.
Most documentaries seem to drag in my opinion, because they focus too much on side stories and lose focus on the main message they’re trying to get across. At a breezy 95 minutes, the emotional connection this film makes with (probably) the majority of its audience makes it a very easy watch. That being said, there are themes that are hearty for children throughout this movie, but I do believe this film should be seen by them as well. Showcasing many portions of his famous show and explaining the meaning behind certain characters/events, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? almost fills the void of not having this man around anymore.
Overall, I can’t say this film offered any big surprises that would force audience members to rush out and see this movie, but the emotional connection that it makes to its audience is well worth the price of admission. This movie sucked me in from start to finish and truly had me thinking throughout. If a documentary can accomplish that, then it’s a winner in my eyes. My sincerest applause goes out to the filmmakers of this documentary. This one is a must-see.
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