A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood review – Flawed but Touching | London Film Festival 2019

Marielle Heller hot off the success of Can You Ever Forgive Me? returns with a new feature, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It’s a sentimental and touching look at Mr Rodgers and his impact on American childhoods. Being English, naturally I had no idea who Mr Rodgers was, until last year’s documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbour?, this time round Heller’s film depicts from an angle of the people who he touched upon.

Whenever Tom Hanks shows up he reinvigorates the film back to life, as for the most part the film is somewhat conventional and lacklustre, mainly due to the first-draft-level dialogue spoken. Heller does a good job with the not-so-impressive script given, both Heller and Hanks elevate what could’ve been a failure to something of a increasingly better nature, especially the more Hanks is seen.

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Tom Junod (Matthew Rhys) is hit with hard times, until he is set on a assignment to interview Fred Rodgers (Tom Hanks). Based on the real-life friendship between journalist Tom Junod and television star Fred Rogers, we see Rodgers reach out and try to help the struggling journalist and through which Tom is able to heal and see the good things in life.

Unlike what was advertised, Mr Rodgers is really a supporting figure to the narrative’s real focus, that being on the Esquire journalist. Unfortunately for the film I believe that is where a lot of the issues lie. With the lacking script it never captures real emotion til nearer the end, it’s the slew of stereotypical sentimental lines that become way too obvious and show the major issue of the film to be its screenplay. In those flaws it sees a pull down on Matthew Rhys, who is given nothing to shine with. Strangely, the writing for Tom Hanks’ Mr Rodgers seemed to be on point and completely varying from all else, but perhaps that’s a testament to Hanks’ fantastically inwards performance.

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The relationship between the two leads is what makes it work, and although Rhys isn’t performing to the highest standards, when Hanks and he are together it makes you wish more of the film were like that. There is a warmth to A Beautiful Day’s portrayal of Mr Rodgers and Hanks is perfect in his brittle and nimble resemblance of the famed TV-star.

As a further testament to the film, the jumping between aspect ratios and film quality creates a nostalgic feel, to which any American fan of Mr Rodgers will undoubtedly get goosebumps. The jumping between on the camera and behind the scenes is a way to show you the kindness and warmth that radiates both on and off the screen with the beloved children’s TV star, Fred Rodgers.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is sentimental and touching. It has gaping issues with its scripting, however when Tom Hanks shows up he reinvigorates life back into the film’s flaws.

3.5/5 Stars

Ben Rolph

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD premiered at TIFF 2019 & is set for release on 6TH DECEMBER in UK Cinemas

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