“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Sony)
By Catholic News Service
Assigned, much against his will, to profile public television children’s show host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), a troubled, cynical reporter (Matthew Rhys) finds his life transformed by the friendship into which his gentle, wise and unflappable new acquaintance gradually draws him, a bond that affects both his fraught relationship with his estranged father (Chris Cooper) and his marriage (to Susan Kelechi Watson).
In adapting a 1998 Esquire magazine article by Tom Junod, director Marielle Heller takes interesting artistic risks with powerful emotional results. Though her film is at its best when the mesmerizing Hanks is on screen, the treatment of topics like forgiveness, the need to prioritize family life over professional advancement and the power of prayer (Rogers was a Presbyterian minister) are consistently handled with skill. While the journalist’s struggles are too dark for little kids, teens and grown-ups will profit from this explicitly humane, implicitly religious movie.
Mature themes, including adultery, a fistfight, one mild oath, a single crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.