WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR – A Review by Gadi Elkon

"From Academy Award® -winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), Won’t You Be My Neighbor? takes an intimate look at America’s favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers. A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination."  WYBMN Website.

Filmmaker Morgan Neville's has captured some truly magical musical moments with his work over the last few decades.  
He dives into country stars and rock stars with such ease.  His ability to highlight the legacies of icons like Poitier is inspiring.  His ability to find the folks behind the stars.  To find the everyperson in the big fame.  Neville's docs have always been moving and powerful.  Won't You Be My Neighbor is a different impact in it's instant familiarity allows for a true intimacy with our subject, Fred Rogers.  I got to see the doc in a packed setting and in a press only screening with 8 other souls.  In both screenings, and I believe in all possible viewings, the audience truly experiences a man's full life's journey and the shared emotion is almost unquenchable at moments.  This yearning feeling is the subtle reminder Neville allows us to wonder where is a show or rather a man (or woman) like Mr. Rogers today?

The power in the film is gained by the wonderful mixing of archival footage and the gripping interviews from the folks around Fred.  The editing highlights some powerful documentary minds with Neville working with Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden.  The award-winning editors bring unique treatment to this bold choice by Morgan Neville.  Their work has included some much darker material and that added vibe creeps into this documentary.  In particular, the friendship of Fred with his actor Francois Clemmons tackled some incredibly touchy issues.  But as Fred allowed his love to guide him we see just how impactful that can be on a person.  Clemmons interviews bleed such truth and heart into the overall story of who was the real Mr. Rogers.  

A fantastic treat of the film is the historical significance of Mr. Rogers' epic "battle" with the Senate keeping Public Broadcasting on the air, dealing with subjects like death or divorce, and how to comment on 9/11.   His ability to slice through the fears of most folks and find an underlining element of compassion was mesmerizing.   A documentary that lets you be transformed back into that child in Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.

This is one of the best documentaries of 2018.  An obvious early Oscar contender.

Bring tissues and an open heart.

Directed by Morgan Neville
Rated PG-13
Selig Rating A+
Running Time 1 hr 34 min
Documentary
Opening June 8th 
 
The Selig Rating Scale:
 
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
 
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