There’s a scene in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” in which writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) asks Joanne Rogers (Maryann Plunkett), the wife of Fred Rogers, if it’s difficult living with a saint. Joanne is taken aback by the question.
She tells Lloyd it’s a mistake to think of Fred as a saint. This point of view presents her husband — more commonly known as Mr. Rogers — as a person whose way of life is unattainable by anyone else. I saw this movie, starring Tom Hanks as Pittsburgh’s own Fred Rogers during its theatrical release last November.
It’s very loosely based on a true story. “Lloyd” takes the place of real-life author and reporter Tom Junod, who wrote an article about Fred Rogers in the Nov. 1998 issue of Esquire magazine which focused on heroes. And “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is truly wonderful.
I left the theater feeling a feeling I rarely — if ever — experience after seeing a movie. Catharsis. I left wanting to be a better person. Because, I thought to myself, if I didn’t at least try, I would be letting Mr. Rogers down.
There may have been some changes in the story for dramatic effect but not the central theme of the story. No spoilers here, but you should know what to expect if you see this movie in the future. It’s not a biography of Fred Rogers. He is basically a supporting character for the film’s 109-minute running length,
Rather, it’s about Mr. Rogers’ relationship with Lloyd, who is facing some extremely difficult circumstances in his life. He’s a father whose work schedule doesn’t always leave time for his wife, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) and
newborn son. And Lloyd has been filled with anger for years after his father Jerry (Chris Cooper) left him and his sister when his mother was in the hospital battling cancer.
But how can you forgive someone who has brought so much pain to your family? Lloyd spends the film’s length trying to answer this question. He’s able to confront and deal with this anger with the help of Mr. Rogers. Watching “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” also gave me some solutions to try when I feel angry. Everyone feels the emotion of anger at one time or another. Even Mr. Rogers.
The film explains Mr. Rogers wasn’t wholly free of pain. When his two sons were young, they didn’t always find it easy to live with a father who many considered a saint. One thing Mr. Rogers did was swim laps every day in local Pittsburgh pools.
I’m guessing this was a constructive way to let out any nervous energy building up in his body. The movie shows him praying for people as he swam, slowly repeating names to himself, stroke by stroke.
I’ll leave it to you to watch the movie to find out if Lloyd deals constructively with his anger. For a hint, I leave the final word to C.S. Lewis, British writer and lay theologian: Forgiving and being forgiven are two names for the same thing. The important thing is that a discord has been resolved.