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BFI Patrons’ Gala

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Director Marielle Heller and star Tom Hanks offer the perfect antidote for uneasy times, in a film destined to capture even the most world-weary heart.

Dir Marielle Heller
Prod Youree Henley, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Leah Holzer
Scr Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster
With Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper
USA
2019
107min
UK Distribution Sony Pictures Releasing

It’s hard to overstate the impact Fred Rogers had on American culture. For three decades, he enchanted generations of children with his television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Gently paced, the show was a safe haven, where Rogers entertained but also tackled problems that his young viewers might have to face as they grew up; his motto was, ‘If you can mention it, you can manage it’. An excellent Matthew Rhys, playing magazine writer Lloyd Vogel (based on journalist Tom Junod) is commissioned to write an article on the presenter. He regards Rogers as an monolith of an unfashionable past – a relic whose style and ideas are outdated. He is also deeply suspicious: ‘Could anyone really be so good, so kind?’ But on spending more time with Rogers, Vogel begins to question his own misanthropic outlook. As a Hollywood star admired for his integrity (he’s Toy Story’s Woody, after all) Tom Hanks is perfect as Rogers. A clever script from Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster (series writers on Transparent) and ingenious direction from Heller also ensure that you don’t need to know who Rogers was for this film to work its magic. With her third feature, after the superb The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me? (LFF 2018), Marielle Heller has delivered her best yet.

Tricia Tuttle


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