“…I like you as you are. Exactly and precisely. I think you turned out nicely. “
This is one I was lucky enough to see at the Toronto Film Festival, where it debuted, telling the story around the magazine profile about the beloved children’s TV host, Mister Rogers, and the impact he had on the writer of the profile. Starring of course, Tom Hanks!
I ran around my neighbo(u)rhood to make this Review on the Run:
It was always going to be a challenge to follow the Won’t You Be My Neighbor? doc, by Morgan Neville that captured our hearts last year. Not being from the US, I didn’t grow up with Mister Rogers, but that doc, with its insights into how he created the show and the life principles he aimed to instill in children, made me wish I did.
First off, the film is directed by Marielle Heller — she who gave us a brilliant turn from Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? which should have seen her nominated for an Oscar last year but she wasn’t. I already want to support her for the wrong that happened there. But the film stands on its own to be good enough to warrant its own praise. Heller brings a whimsical touch to the story by turning the settings and locations of the film into giant versions of the make-believe world Mr Rogers created. New York and Pittsburg get their own miniature models, giving us the chance to see them in a playful light.
With films like this, where you know going in that it’s going to be emotional because they speak to parts of us from years gone by, and to nostalgia for a time that’s over, there’s the fear they’ll become too sentimental. But I didn’t feel that here. I just felt the story. And I wanted to write down the pieces of life advice peppered throughout – “There’s always something you can do with the mad that you feel,” said Mr Rogers.
It stars Tom Hanks, the nicest man in the biz, and that fits. He’s considered and measured in his performance, but he brings to life the warmth I’ve seen in YouTube clips of Mr Rogers. Yet this film isn’t so much about him as it is about Matthew Rhys’ character, who plays the writer in the story. He is us, those looking at Rogers with a cynical eye. We’re won over by the end, and I don’t want to say how, for that’s why you should go see this film.
When you’re done watching the film, do yourself a favour and read this wonderful piece by Jeanne Marie Laskas, on the disciplined, focused, love-filled artist he was.
“If we can somehow rid ourselves of illusions,” he said. “The illusion that we are greater or lesser than we are. The illusion that we’re going to save the world. There are a lot of illusions that people walk around with. I would love to be able to be present in every moment I have.”