Won't You Be My Neighbor? ★★★★½

I'm having a hard time putting words to the immense feelings this film gave me. It is a simple story of Fred Rogers' uncanny ability to connect with young children through television without the use of violence, gags, or pandering.

The deeper themes of being a genuine person and exploring your emotions (negative or positive) really resonated with me, despite not having grown up with Rogers' program. We all have the power to be a good person, but society can be so active in keeping us from doing so.

This film made me feel so many things, and it's tough to work through all of them. I sobbed during the final 20 minutes or so, moved beyond belief by the unrelenting mission of empathy that Rogers championed. He understood the superficial nature of television, but saw its potential for good. He took it upon himself to take the difficult path in making programming specifically for children that didn't treat them as unintelligent or invaluable.

My only critique is that because the film tells the whole story of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," it skims over many of the lessons that Rogers sought out to teach. I would have liked a bit more time devoted to a few of them, even if others would have been omitted. This is especially prevalent in the middle third of the film, where it's a bit jarring jumping from theme to theme.

However, this is not enough to sink the film. It is undoubtedly a tremendously joyous and hopefully story full of hope that everyone should watch. It is the definition of timely to see someone devote his entire life to educating children on a deep, intellectual, and human level. Stories like this are becoming a necessity as America unravels due to a sheer lack of the values that Rogers taught so well.

Rogers understood the critical notion of loving and accepting love. He encouraged authenticity and honesty, and always looked into kids' hearts to convey his message. He rightfully became a bastion of knowledge for people unsure about how to discuss difficult subjects with their kids. And above else, he personified the responsibility that we all share to cherish and protect children, because the reality is that there is a child in all of us, still full of anxieties and fears, always ready and willing to be loved.

“You have made this day a special day, for just being you.”