Have you ever felt a happy glow of joy in your soul? Perhaps a kiss or a special moment caused that glow of joy in your soul to occur. A giant glow of joy in my soul descended upon my soul during and at the conclusion of It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a true story of a troubled man who was able to heal with the help of the wondrous Mister Rodgers whom he was asked to interview on a story about heroes. It’s hauntingly beautiful the way Fred Rodgers teachers Lloyd to cope with his feelings, and I believe we all need someone in our lives to help us in this way. Watching this film caused time to stop for me. I was transported into a new world of both joy and pain, and I learned how joy helps conquer pain and how grief is a natural yet difficult part of life. Fred Rodgers swims, prays, writes letters, in order to cope with death, divorce, and war- because “it gets dark” as Lloyd says. The task of learning how to cope with pain and strife and turn our life into the best possible thing it could be is the lesson of this film. “Sometimes, just sometimes we get to change a broken world with our words.” That is what Lloyd states and is also able to do with his words as he is assigned an article on heroes and Mister Rodgers is chosen. We witness the life of Lloyd and the life of Mister Rodgers unfold and become interwoven until it creates this warm quilt of love.
Are you happy is a good question that this movie poses and both men spend the movie on a journey to seek happiness in a sometimes cruel, cold world. “Oh God, Lloyd please don’t ruin my childhood,” Lloyd’s wife says when referring to the piece he is writing about heroes, and he writes something that charms the entire nation and touches hearts. During the interview, Mister Rodgers says “When I focus into in that camera I try to speak to a single child at a time and focus on their needs”. One of the needs is met when Mister Rodgers says “Do you know what that means to forgive? It means to release a person from the anger we feel. Sometimes it’s the hardest to forgive someone we love.” Mister Rodgers is leading a lesson on forgiveness, one we could all learn from. Fred Rodgers tells Lloyd and the audience this to try in an effort to reach into Lloyd’s pain and attempt to help him heal. The interview continues with: “What brought you back to the show?” Lloyd asks mister Rodgers. “I realized that there was still so much to talk about,” Mister Rodgers says, and follows that up by saying. “If we could through television programs and all other programs show that everyone is precious” It gets personal when he says to Lloyd after breaking down the walls he put up, “I’m sure if she saw you today the person you became, she would be so proud.” Fred is talking to Lloyd about his deceased mother.
“A hospital is where you go when your body is hurt, but where do you go when your feelings are hurt?” is a question posed by Mister Rodgers. I think the answer to that poignant question is Turning Point, and I would also add that’s where you go when your mind hurts, because I know mine does sometimes. The scene where Lloyd’s father Jerry is in his apartment and Lloyd is frozen in anger broke my heart after Lloyd’s dad said “I may never come back here” Lloyd’s father begins trying to ask for forgiveness, but then he collapses and everything goes in slow motion. Lloyd and his wife are staying with Lloyd’s dying father. It’s the silent calm sadness that washes over me and I watch Lloyd staring off and thinking about all the things in his life – past, present, and future all at once while he feeds the newborn child he has. “I like you as you are, exactly as you are. Exactly and precisely as you are no doubt or question,” is the most beautiful soothing lullaby I have ever heard, as Lloyd sings to Gavin.
Then the theme of forgiveness comes full circle as Lloyd’s father asked Lloyd to forgive him for leaving him and his sister and his mother was dying. The theater grew silent and I gasped. And then I heard those beautiful three words that a human can say to another and caused that glow of their soul – I love you. Lloyd’s article about Mister Rodgers, his interaction with him changed his trajectory in life. Then Mister Rodgers visits Lloyd and his dying father and that when tears began rolling down my cheek, because for that moment in that theater on that screen my faith in humanity was restored. Thank you, Tom Hanks, for recreation of a beloved character and absolutely made in a beautiful day in the neighborhood for all who experience and will experience this film. “Fame is a four-letter word like tape or face. It’s what you do with it that matters” – Tom Hanks and Mister Rodgers never let fame get to their heads and that is absolutely incredible feat to accomplish, to be humble and when given a platform to speak to make sure that you reach the most vulnerable people, children. I also learned that “death is sometimes we fear but it is human and anything human is manageable”, is something Fred Rodgers shares. Lloyd talks about himself as being a part of a group of broken people. “I don’t think you are broken – you are a man of conviction a man who knows what is wrong and what is right and know that your father helped shape those convictions and helped shape who you are” is what he says, allowing Lloyd a deeper connection and some much needed closure. As Mister Rodgers drives off, Lloyd does the sign language for friends that he was taught and as Mister Rodgers drives away, he drives straight into my heart as he truly embodies what it means to be a hero, true to the article that Lloyd wrote. “If you think of him as a saint that his way of being is unattainable”- Joan Rodgers says of her husband. In a way Mister Rodgers was a saint, but he was human and was capable of deep love and understanding which he spread through the world through his television show, and the joy he brought to so many was captured brilliantly in this film. Thank you for this precious gift you have given the world. As Mister Rodgers said “it’s such a good feeling to be alive” and this movie gave me an incredible rush of feeling alive.