Cynical journalist Lloyd Vogel (Rhys) is assigned to write a feature article about Fred Rogers (Hanks), host of the long-running PBS kids’show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” A coiled spring, Vogel has a strained relationship with his alcoholic father and carries a lot of resentment. He reluctantly meets Mr. Rogers, and soon discovers that his life is improving thanks to this gentle, loving minister.
Using a 1998 article by Tom Junod in Esquire as a springboard, Heller explores the transformative effects of the famed personality on one man. Echoing the pace and rhythms of the TV show, the film captures Mr. Rogers’ humanity and wisdom; Hanks seems to channel Rogers himself in a perfectly calibrated performance, and was nominated for an Academy Award. Heller’s subtle direction (occasionally breaking the fourth wall) invites us all to be moved by the magic and grace of Mr. Rogers.