There’s a scene in the film biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood” (2019) that’s so sudden and violent, you wonder if the filmmakers forgot that this film centers around mild-mannered and famous US children’s TV show host Mister Rogers (played flawlessly by two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks).
The scene? A wedding reception.
The sister of the film’s protagonist Lloyd Vogel (played to perfection by actor Matthew Rhys) was tying the knot for a third time. What’s different this time though is that, for once, she invited their estranged father Jerry Vincent to attend.
Jerry had been a dead-skunk alcoholic and adulterer for most of their lives. And when their mom was diagnosed with cancer, he had high-tailed out of the family and left the siblings to hold the fort as their mom fought a losing battle with her illness.
No surprise years later when told of the wedding invite, Lloyd was unsure who upset him more. His sister, for inviting Jerry to the wedding? Or Jerry, who accepted the invite and who Lloyd must now face?
At this point, given the mild and languid pace of the film, I had expected at best an awkward reconnection at the wedding reception. Or at worse a cold and unpleasant encounter, with maybe some heated words exchanged.
What I didn’t expect was the sudden explosive and visceral response Lloyd had when Jerry tried to talk to him about his mom.
The sucker punch Lloyd gave him right there and then was instant and volcanic, to say the least!
Talk about a beautiful day in the neighborhood!
The Body Keeps The Score
In his book The Body Keeps The Score, Dutch psychiatrist and researcher Bessel van der Kolk makes the pertinent point that our memories of adverse or traumatic experiences do not merely reside within the deep recesses of our minds.
Our bodies actually have far longer and faster recalls.
I should know.
Even now, I still recall vividly one counseling session I attended in early 2021 when my body suddenly convulsed uncontrollably and tears flooded my face when asked a seemingly innocuous question by my therapist.
So watching the rest of the movie and getting more context, it was not too hard for me to see why Lloyd reacted so instantly, punching his father even though it meant ruining what was supposed to have been a joyous occasion.
The rest of the film follows Lloyd’s journey toward resolving differences and restoring broken relationships.
How? With more than a little help from Mister Rogers.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbour?”
Meet Mister (Fred) Rogers.
He was a multi-award-winning creator and host of a US primetime TV show for preschool children — Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — that ran between 1968 and 2001.
What apparently set this show apart from others like Sesame Street was how Rogers often infused his shows with pretty heavy topics for discussion. Topics like death and divorce.
But he always did it with sensitivity and at a level accessible to young kids. His gentle and grandfatherly demeanor both on and off camera was likely the reason for the show’s popularity and posterity.
And why it spawned both this movie and a documentary called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” on the life of Fred Rogers. Not to mention countless articles written about this “hero” to kids everywhere.
And to adults too.
Adults like Lloyd, whose story in the film was based loosely on Esquire magazine journalist Tom Junod’s encounter with Fred.
Forced by his boss to interview Fred for a feature on heroes of America, investigative reporter and hardened cynic Lloyd slowly began to let go of his past demons.
Thanks mainly to Fred’s concern and care for him, and his patient persistence throughout the story for Lloyd to mend bridges with Jerry before it’s too late.
The theme of the film? Resolving past traumas
For me, the film had many quotable quotes worth collecting and I’m reproducing some of them below for the record.
However, if you’re an adult with adverse childhood experiences (and I suspect that’s many of us!), then watching this excellent film won’t just be about collecting quotes.
It might offer up some soothing balm and maybe a way for you to believe and hope again. That it is possible for past trauma to find closure.
And to believe that, even though it’s been 20 years now since his passing, there are other angels on earth like Fred Rogers just waiting to help you and me walk through our hurts and pains.
Into a new life of freedom and joy!
Quotable Quotes from the film
Try to remember your relationship with your father also helped to shape those parts. He helped you become what you are. (Time left in the film: 36.54 min)
Take a minute and think about all the people who loved us into being. They will come to you. Just one minute of silence. (36.20)
He’s having a hard time forgiving the person who hurt him. Do you know what that means? To forgive? It’s a decision we make to release a person from the feeling of anger we have at them. It’s strange but sometimes, it’s hardest of all to forgive someone we love. (1h 45min)
Children need to know that even when adults make plans, sometimes they don’t turn out the way we’d hoped. (1h 18 min)
Each one of us is precious. I don’t think anybody can grow unless he really is accepted exactly as he is…a child is appreciated for what he will be… (1h 9.30min)
Responding to Oprah Winfrey’s question on what’s the greatest mistake parents make, Mister Rogers replied: “…not to remember your own childhood….think about what it was like for us and know what our children are going through.“
Again, responding to Oprah about how parents forget above: “…those children can help us re-evoke what it was like. That’s why when you’re a parent, you have a new chance to grow.” (1h 8min)