PITTSBURGH, Pa. – “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks is now in theaters and takes viewers on a journey through the transcendent way beloved TV personality Fred Rogers practiced his Christian faith which has impacted millions across the world.
“Do you know what that means, to forgive?” Hanks, portraying Mr. Rogers, asks at the top of the film which goes on to serve as the perfect cinematic therapy session for the world today.
“It’s a decision we make to release a person from the feelings of anger we have toward them,” he continued.
The film is based on an article written by journalist Tom Junod, who formed a friendship with Rogers while writing a profile on his life and work. The movie details how their friendship changed Junod’s life by helping him to forgive someone close to him.
Although faith was the driving force of Rogers’ life, his wife, Joanne Rogers, told the filmmakers of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” that it was imperative they not portray him as a saint because his godly character was a result of the practice he put into his religious convictions.
Rogers worked in television for more than 30 years after graduating college. The only breaks he took from working in television were times he devoted to his Christian faith. The TV pioneer attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963.
“When we first met Joanne Rogers she basically had one demand of us, which is that we not treat Fred as a saint,” writer Noah Harpster told The Christian Post at the hometown premiere of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” on Wednesday.
“That was not what we were expecting,” He added. “She said, ‘because if you treat him as a saint, his way of life is unattainable. He worked very hard at this. He got up every morning and he prayed for people by name. He thought of this as a practice. This is something he worked at every single day. And if you say he's a saint, then to you, as a person on planet Earth, it's unattainable.' That kind of blew our minds. I think that is it for us. I mean, that's that is Fred.”
A scene in the film shows how Rogers would kneel at his bedside every night to pray for people by name.
Director Marielle Heller told The Christian Post that the TV icon really talked the talk.
“That was why it was important that we didn't think of him as a saint because then we can aspire to be like him. I think the thing that Fred tried to teach or what I've gained from spending all this time getting to know him, was that he felt like we could all work on our kindness, we could all work to be our better selves, we could all call on that part of ourself that is better,” she said.
“I've had a lot of people ask me recently, ‘Who is the person who's going to take up the mantle and be the next Fred Rogers?’ And the answer that I've been giving is, ‘I think it's all of us. It's all of us who need to do that,’” Heller added.
In Pittsburgh and throughout the United States, Rogers is considered a hero who impacted the lives of millions with his TV show, “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.”
“What I took away from Fred is that you don't have to do big things in order to be a hero,” Heller maintained. “You don't have to save the world in order to change somebody's life. It can be small acts; it can be helping one child, it can be being kind to one stranger. That these things can make huge differences in people's lives. You have no idea the differences you can make.”
“What I gained from it was the idea that we can all make choices in our life to be more kind, we can make choices toward compassion,” she emphasized.
Another impactful moment in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” features a scene where Rogers leads a restaurant filled with people in a moment of quiet reflection.
“Just take a minute and think about all the people who loved us into being. Just one minute of silence,” Rogers says in the film.
Junod, who was at the Pittsburgh premier on Wednesday, said he loves the fact that the film about his relationship with Rogers doesn't just “repeat” the minister's message.
“It allows you to experience his message. His message wasn't just like, ‘Everybody be kind.’ His message was, ‘Slow down,’ his message was ‘Listen,’ his message was ‘Engage with people,’ His message was, ‘Don't just ask questions, wait for the answer,’” Junod stressed.
“That's what this movie is. It really shows so many of the things that he was able to do on a one on one level with people,” he added. It’s such a world of distraction, he was wary of that and skeptical of that from the start.”
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is now showing in theaters nationwide.