For what it’s worth, I can’t recall watching Mister Rogers when I was a kid, not even once. But this documentary is well worth your time.
How a Documentary About Mister Rogers Turns Him Into a Rock Star for Our Time, by Owen Gleiberman (Variety)
‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ has become an indie sensation by viewing Fred Rogers as a smiling force of goodness who can fight the darkness.
It’s difficult, and always has been, for a documentary to break through the clutter and beam itself onto the radar of mainstream moviegoing. When one succeeds in doing so, it’s revealing to look at why. “RBG,” an incisive portrait of the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is a major documentary hit, but it doesn’t take rocket science to grasp the reasons for its success. The film presents Ginsburg, quite rightfully, as a feminist superhero of progressive action — a crusader who’s become an icon of the resistance.
Yet who would have guessed that “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” Morgan Neville’s transporting documentary about Fred Rogers and his quirky oasis of children’s television, would also turn out to be a tale for our time? Audiences lining up to see it are probably having the same experience I did: You walk in thinking that you’re going to take a nostalgic museum tour of a TV moment you grew up with, and maybe get a glimpse into the mystery of the man who created it (key question: was he really like that? short answer: yes). When you walk out, though, you realize that you’ve seen something much, much bigger. In 2018, Mister Rogers has become the last thing anyone might have expected him to be: a countercultural figure, a radical who can show us the way. You probably think I’m kidding (or deluded), but after you see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” you’ll realize I’m not.