by Lori Twichell
This weekend I took my family to go see the Mr. Rogers movie with Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I’ve been looking forward to this one ever since it was announced. Tom Hanks – is it possible for him to mess anything up? And they filmed in Pittsburgh with people who knew Mr. Rogers. Oh that has such promise. Such potential. I’ll admit that I was scared though. There’s a line in the movie: “Please don’t screw up my childhood.” Yeah, I felt that too.
I was a latch key kid in the 80’s. I had two parents in the house until I was about 13 years old but they were both working long hard hours. One was overnight/late shift and the other worked during the day. I was an only child pretty much left to my own devices most of the time. Sesame Street taught me letters and numbers. Electric Company taught me to read. Mr. Rogers loved me. Sitting alone in my house after school every day, I just knew without a shadow of the doubt that he saw me. He was looking straight at me. And he liked me. And I was okay. I was going to be okay. I still AM going to be okay.
From the moment I sat in the seat at the theater, I was ready for home and childhood and….safety. Mr. Rogers was safe. Always. Oh please don’t screw that up. Right now, of all the things in my life, I need the peace, healing. Safety. Even though I didn’t realize it when I bought the tickets to the movie, I desperately needed to sit in a dark theater and just be, well, loved for a couple of hours without judgment. I needed this movie. I think a lot of people do. My daughter has said that no one is out there telling kids it’s okay and they’re going to be okay. She’s right.
I did find my peace in this movie but it was not a happy, shiny island of peace. Like anything else in life, we had to make it through the hard parts. We traveled a journey with Lloyd from beginning to end. And the brightness was there. The peace. The grace. But we had to get there. And even though, in some places, it was right in front of Lloyd (us) we still had to acknowledge it. This is God’s love for us. This is how God works and loves. He’s there. Do we WANT to acknowledge? Reach out? We can have that. ANYONE can have that peace. That ‘magic.’ That grace. It’s available. We just need to take it…
Oh sorry. Got caught up in that deeper message. Let me get back to the movie.
Framed like watching an episode of Mr. Rogers program, the script was beautifully written. The stark contrast between the make believe neighborhood and ‘real life’ was instant, profound, and stunning. The colors and framework used in building the startling side by side comparison between Mr. Rogers’ worlds and ‘reality’ were amazing. Everyone involved in this project deserves nods and nominations. It was so good. But don’t think because it’s about a childhood hero that it’s fluff. It’s far from fluffy.
I’m also about to make a very bold statement here. Tom Hanks wasn’t the man who should get best actor nod in this one. Matthew Rhys blew it away. I think Tom Hanks and his incredible professionalism pulled everyone up to a higher standard across the board. Rhys plumbed the depths of anger, rage, bitterness and pain in this one. And Hanks portrayed peace, grace and compassion.
As a Christian, I think Fred Rogers embodied what we are to be in this world. Everything’s hurting around us and broken and we are to show that love, grace and peace that can ONLY come from God above. THIS is how we live the gospel for people. We should be what other people see as magic and incredible. We should be the thing other people want – Fred Rogers had that. All Christians should have it. And show it. I fully belive that. This movie was a brilliant example of that.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was not at all what I expected it to be. This was not the story of Fred Rogers but it was the story of who he is. It covers parenting. Being a father. Generational sin and brokenness. Despair. Pain. Power. Grace. Peace. Forgiveness. LIFE. This movie isn’t about children’s entertainment. It’s about LIFE. And just as Mr. Rogers himself did for generations of children, the movie teaches us how to make our way through things that aren’t pretty. Or perfect. Or fun. It teaches us in a very real way how to handle hurt and pain and people.
The layers in this movie are incredible. The hope is tangible. I can’t remember when I’ve ever left a movie with such a feeling of…GOOD. We have not had that in society for a LONG time. Do yourself a favor and go see it. Take your church. Take your family. Your neighbors. Your friends. Your kids. Your youth group. TAKE EVERYONE. You will be glad you did.