By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
Between 1963 and 2001, Fred Rogers entertained and educated via his television programs which not only instructed children about the world around them, but also fueled their imagination and creativity. Morgan Neville’s documentary goes behind the scenes to reveal the real Fred Rogers, a humble and intelligent Presbyterian minister-turned television host. Rogers eschewed a church pulpit for a television studio where he could reach the world’s masses and spread his messages of love, magic, education, and acceptance of all kinds of people. The film offers audiences a candid and insightful look at this genuinely beautiful soul who touched the hearts of not only his colleagues, but also his audience members who tuned in regularly. Neville’s film is not only a well-made documentary, but it is also an extension of Roger’s love and is a pure reflection of the soft-spoken, cardigan-wearing man himself.
Neville offers a comprehensive look at Rogers’s humble background and beginnings. He takes the audience on a fascinating and emotional journey through Rogers’s life as a shy and awkward young man, followed by his adult life as a husband, father, and later as a children’s television personality. When Fred’s show, Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood hit the air waves during the 60s, little did he know what kind of impact he would have on the world. He would, however, face his shares of challenges and obstacles as the world was constantly changing. Rogers remained undaunted in his goals and would remain on the air for over thirty years.
The film combines old footage and interviews with his closest friends, confidantes and loved ones. Every person, who has met Fred Rogers and befriended him, loved this unassuming and sweet man. Not everyone knew the real Fred Rogers, but those who did will attest to how his show’s personality was actually not very different from the man behind the scenes. Neville also tastefully addresses some of the false rumors and more controversial aspects of Fred’s work and life.
I absolutely fell in love with this film. I sat and watched in awe and realized how much I had taken for granted what a wonderful human Fred Rogers was. I am not going to lie, but some of the more beautiful and poignant moments made me cry, as I was truly touched by Rogers’s heart and love for everyone. Fred Rogers was an incredible person and his legacy for the world is unconditional love. It is a message which gets plenty of talk and some action, but Fred Rogers was love personified. Morgan Neville’s wonderful film serves as a beautiful reminder of this and it is a reminder the world definitely needs right now.