Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Reviewed
Fri. 6/29/18
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
4.8333333333333
Acting
5
5/5
Morality
5
5/5
Music
5
5/5
Story
5
5/5
Visuals
4
4/5
Kernel Factor
5
5/5
A must-watch. Beautiful and uplifting. Bring your tissue box.
Reviewed By: Steven Siwek
Viewing Environment:
Theater
Viewing Crew:
Significant Other
Times Watched:
1
Genre:
Documentary
Payment Method:
MoviePass
Review:

I don't know what it was about "Won't You Be My Neighbor" (I think it's something called 'heart'), but I found myself literally holding back tears during the title sequence (first 5min of the movie). I wish I were kidding. Guys, this movie. I was a 90's kid, so Mr. Rogers was part of my daily life growing up. If you would've told me at the time all the deep things he was trying to teach me, I definitely wouldn't have been aware. And I think that's part of my emotion in watching this feature-length documentary - I was in awe of his intentionality, seriousness toward childhood, and empathy of children. It is beautiful in every way!

Acting
Documentaries are either hit or miss when it comes to "Acting", since they are usually relying on interviewees to guide the narrative. I was absolutely amazed by the quality interviews this doc had. We had some grit, emotion, heart, and laughter sprinkled everywhere. Not to mention, Mr. Rogers himself had so much banked footage that it felt as though he were an interviewee in his own film - I loved that. The usage of his soundbites to show us the inside of his character was superb. 
Morality
What can I say? This is a movie that makes you love life, but it doesn't sugar-coat it. "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" carries the heart of the show itself in documentary form by reminding us of the importance of children, their thoughts/emotions, and how as adults we play a vital role in their development. The film is rated PG-13, and I believe is intentionally done from a marketing perspective, so that parents/adults are more prone to go and not just think it's a kids movie or a Mr. Rogers reboot of sorts. I don't think I'd show it to kids under-13...one of the main reasons is because you'll be crying so much that you might not be able to explain it to your kids. It fills your heart in an unexplainable way. 
Music
I love the use of practical music! One of the greatest gifts this film had was using Mr. Rogers simple piano melodies. It was perfect for the kind of story being told. Not to mention, an appearance by Yo-Yo Ma as an interview who played a beautiful piece only added to the musical richness.
Story
Yes. Yes in every way. I feel like the filmmakers really understood the story of Fred Rogers and how his show was influential. There was such a great grasp on what to tell and how to tell it. We go through 30-40 years of Mr. Roger's show and even part of his life in a matter of 90 minutes - talk about efficient editing! The interviews do a wonderful job of guiding us to the next "big" moment in the film. I found the transitions to be gripping, and poignant reminders of how deep the Neighborhood went. I found myself looking over to my wife multiple times and saying, "Wow". I thought I knew a little bit about Mr. Rogers, but this really opened up the veil. I also thought the timing post his death, 15 years, was appropriate and allowed the interviewees to still be raw and very thoughtful in their comments. The film covers all it needed to cover, but it's so good that I wanted to know even more about Mr. Roger's sons and/or a couple more people who were influenced by him in rapid fire.
Visuals
The interviews were lit so well at such great locations. Simple and beautiful. I seriously can't believe how much footage they must have gone through to tell this story. Major kudos to the producers, research and editing teams. The only, little edit, thing I didn't agree with was how they use two visual metaphors to "help" us go inside Mr. Roger's mind - one is animated while the other is a practical visual of a trolley. Neither was necessary to me, and in fact, somewhat distracting. This may sound crazy because as a documentary filmmaker I know the challenges of finding footage to help guide the audience's thinking/emotion. But they had the footage! They didn't need to do anything more. Nonetheless, I acknowledge this is a ticky-tack edit.
Kernel Factor
I don't know the last time I could honestly say this about a movie, but I MUST buy "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" The elevation of children, their emotions and influences, is so compelling. The way in which Mr. Roger's faith propelled him was so motivating to me. The film boldly states toward the end that there are more Mr. Rogers among us. I believe that and I hope they will rise up as a result of this beautiful film. Watch it!