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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Rated PG-13

–Review by Ashley Linne

We’ve forgotten that in this fractured society, we really are all each other’s neighbor. Today’s world is full of narcissism at both individual and organizational levels. Kindness and empathy are confused with weakness or returned with violence. One can hardly keep up with all the heartbreaking and terrifying news rippling across the globe.

This documentary is an exquisite invitation to us all to remember we are neighbors—we are human. We all need love. We need each other.

Mister Rogers understood the value of society’s most vulnerable members. He had the ability to see the heart of a person and to reflect total acceptance in a way that recognized the person’s worth and ability to make good choices. Unconditional love was his goal.

The film presents a very honest look at Fred’s life, through the eyes of his family and coworkers. He made mistakes like anyone else, but his integrity and dedication to God and children was always clear.

He leveraged new technology for his message while remaining remarkably simple in his production. This combination seems to have made him irresistible to children and adults alike. The meaning of the message wasn’t lost in the pomp and flash of the presentation.

Unlike so many others, Fred Rogers didn’t ever have an inflated ego. He was exactly the same whether on screen or off. And he frequently wondered if what he was doing made a difference in healing the larger problems of society.

Fred Rogers exemplified both bravery and gentleness. He never shied away from the difficult and painful topics of the day; in fact, he insisted on addressing them. But he did it in ways that were kind and disarming—simple enough for children and adults alike. He knew how to cut to the heart of a matter but to do it so warmly that it helped take the sting of it out.

I hope you have the opportunity to see this documentary, and take away a sense of worth, bravery, and encouragement for neighboring.