Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Best of Enemies director Morgan Neville delivers this heartfelt tribute to Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister turned iconic host of the long-running children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Rogers started on local television in Pittsburgh, but his warmth, sincerity and ability to connect with children eventually made him the face of public television. In a direct response to the violent, stupid, mass-marketed, ad-based poison that was already beginning to dominate children’s TV, Rogers used his program to promote caring and self-worth, while still confronting relevant issues in a responsible manner. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is just as fawning and formally unimaginative as Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s RBG, or any other talking-heads-and-clips documentary for that matter. Neville zips through the usual starry-eyed interviews and nostalgia-filled highlight reels, but there is an essential emotional element to the film, one driven largely by a protagonist with a powerful need to express his feelings. D.B.