A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is based on an article written by journalist Tom Junod, called ‘Can you say hello?’, which was published in Esquire magazine in 1998.
In the movie, Junod’s character is Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a cynical journalist who gets the job of writing an article about a much-loved children’s TV presenter, Mr Rogers. Lloyd is certain that there’s a hard-nosed businessman behind Mr Rogers’s kindly persona, so he’s taken aback to find that Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) is the same innocent, almost-childlike, likeable person off and on the screen.
Lloyd probes Fred for a weakness but increasingly finds himself on the other side of the interviewing process. In his own inimitable way, Fred slowly extracts the source of Lloyd’s inner rage. This goes back to Lloyd’s mother’s death when he was a child. His anger is directed towards his father, Jerry (Chris Cooper), who left him and his sister Lorraine (Tammy Blanchard) while their mother was sick and dying. Jerry has tried to come back into Lloyd’s life after a long absence, and Lloyd wants nothing to do with him. Fred teaches Lloyd that holding on to anger not only damages his father but also himself.
Lloyd and Fred end up becoming the best of unlikely friends.
Father/son relationships; family breakdowns; death and dying; forgiveness
There is some violence in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, including when Jerry and Lloyd get into a fight at Lorraine’s wedding. Lloyd ends up with a bloodied nose.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood has some sexual references. For example:
- Jerry refers to Lloyd’s wife, Andrea (a public attorney lawyer), as ‘doll’.
- Lloyd talks about Jerry sleeping around while Lloyd’s mother was dying.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood shows some use of substances. For example:
- Characters drink alcohol in various places including a wedding reception and at home.
- Jerry gets drunk at a wedding reception.
Nudity and sexual activity
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Lloyd and his wife talk in bed together. Lloyd is naked from the top up. No sexual activity is happening.
- Lloyd and his wife kiss occasionally.
There is some coarse language in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, including ‘dammit’, ‘oh God’, ‘freaking’, ‘holy crap’, ‘jerks’ and ‘hell’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a positive, uplifting and heartwarming movie, initially set in Mr Rogers’s children’s TV set. Mr Rogers (well portrayed by Tom Hanks) is an inspirational man who exudes love, compassion and a belief in children just being themselves.
Although there’s nothing particularly scary in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, it does cover some disturbing themes and complex psychological problems, which young children are unlikely to understand. It’s therefore more suitable for families with older children.
The main messages from this movie are that you should accept children for who they are, not what they might become and that it’s important to remember what it’s like to be a child.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:
- positive ways to deal with your feelings without hurting yourself or anyone else
- forgiveness and redemption
- respect for everyone, including children
- a belief that all children are special and unique.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like why Lloyd is so angry with his father. Can you understand why he feels this way? Does his anger help him in life or does it restrict his personal growth?