Film Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Director Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is a reflective and at times touching drama. 

Writer Lloyd Vogel is assigned to complete a small profile on children’s television personality Fred Rogers for Esquire, a world away from his hard-hitting pieces. When he meets the beloved personality, Lloyd’s view slowly begins to shift…

It would be inaccurate to call A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood a Fred Rogers biopic. After all, he is not even the main character in the film. Rather Heller’s film, based on real events, focuses on the impact the beloved children’s personality had through the microcosm of a single person. 

Marielle Heller and screenwriters Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster juxtapose the cynical writer against the earnest children’s personality. At its heart, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is about a person too cynical to believe anyone could be that good, and a person too good to let a person be that cynical. As the friendship progresses, barriers are broken down. Heller deals with these in a meditative fashion. The film ambles rather than scurries to its conclusion. 

The bookend device of an episode of the show is a very smart move from Heller. This gives a neat introduction to Rogers and his show, particularly for younger or international viewers who may less familiar with the character. It also solidifies that the story which will be told has a moral, just like in the television show. 

The script is good; characters have time to develop in a natural manner. The film is really only concerned with Rogers and Vogel, with the supporting characters not having a life beyond the two protagonists. The film has some genuinely touching moments, although it is not always as engaging as it could be. There are some good moments though, such as when Vogel believes he is part of the show. 

Tom Hanks is reliable as ever as Fred Rogers. He delivers his lines with such sincerity, it is hard not to be charmed. Matthew Rhys is also great as Lloyd Vogel. Chris Cooper stands out in a supporting role. Heller creates a sense of intimacy with her protagonists that suits the tone very well. 

Although the film lacks the pizazz of Heller’s previous feature Can You Ever Forgive Me?, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood promotes the type of kindness and sincerely that is sorely needed right now. 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019. 

BFI London Film Festival 2019 Launch

This morning saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2019. In its 63rd year, the festival is screening 229 feature films, including 28 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The opening and closing films for the BFI London Film Festival 2019 had already been announced. The festival opens with the European premiere of Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield. An adaptation of the Dickens’ classic, the film stars Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, and Hugh Laurie. Martin Scorsese‘s hotly-anticipated The Irishman closes the festival. There is an embarrassment of riches among the other headline galas, including Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Marielle Heller’s (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, and Michael Winterbottom’s Greed, starring Steve Coogan and Isla Fisher.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

This year, films screening as part of the Strand Galas include Robert Eggers’ (The Witch) The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. The Dare Gala is Mirrah Folks’ debut feature Judy & Punch, a fairy tale starring Mia Wasikowska. Among the Special Presentations are Takashi Miike’s First Love, and Bombay Rose, a hand-drawn animated feature from Gitanjali Rao.

Official Competition

Among the ten features in Official Competition at the London Film Festival 2019 are Haifaa Al-Mansour’s (Wadjda) The Perfect Candidate, about a young doctor who challenges Saudi Arabia’s strict social codes. Thomas Clay’s Fanny Lye Deliver’d stars Maxine Peake and Charles Dance, and is about a woman living with her puritanical husband in 17th century Shropshire. The Documentary Competition features Rubika Shah’s White Riot, about the Rock Against Racism movement, and Lauren Greenfield The Kingmaker, which focuses on Imelda Marcos. The First Feature Competition includes Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth, a drama starring Eliza Scanlon and Ben Mendelsohn.

Strands

The eleven thematic programme strands are back once more at the London Film Festival 2019. The Love strand includes La Belle Époque, Nicolas Bedos’ drama about an illustrator who uses technology to replay the past, and Ga-young Jeong’s Heart. The Debate strand is particularly strong this year with Citizen K (Alex Gibney‘s documentary on Mikhail Khodorkovsky), Chinonye Chukwu’s Sundance winner Clemency, Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, and Scott Z Burns’ The Report, starring Adam Driver. Comedies in the Laugh strand includes Billie Piper’s directorial debut Rare Beasts, whilst Wash Westmoreland’s Earthquake Bird in the Thrill strand stars Alicia Vikander in an 1980s Tokyo-set thriller. Cannes winner The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão is among the films in the Journey category.

The Dare strand features animated coming-of-age tale I Lost My Body and Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird, about a Jewish boy on a journey home during wartime. The Cult strand includes Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge and Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium, with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. Also in this category is Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space, a HP Lovecraft adaptation starring Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson. The Experimenta strand includes Brad Butler and Noorafshan Mizra’s Ruptures, whilst Create includes Midge Costin’s documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound. Two highlights of the Family strand are Edmunds Jansons’ Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs and Lorenzo Mattotti’s The Bears’ Famous Invasion. Finally, classics that are showing as part of the Treasures programme include David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, starring Vincent Price.

The BFI London Film Festival 2019 runs from 2nd-13th October. The full programme can be viewed here.

Previews: Queen & Slim, The Irishman, more!

Lots of tantalising clips in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Queen & Slim trailer, The Irishman, JT LeRoy, and more…

Queen & Slim Trailer

Here is the brand new Queen & Slim trailer. The trailer gives allusions of Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma & Louise with its couple on the run premise, albeit with a very contemporary edge. The film is written by Lena Waithe, and directed by Melina Matsoukas. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim is coming soon to cinemas.

The Irishman Trailer

Finally the trailer for one of the year’s most anticipated films is here. The Irishman sees Martin Scorsese re-team with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Additions to the cast include Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, and Anna Paquin. Written by Steve Zalillian, The Irishman is about a hitman who worked alongside some of the 20th century’s most notorious figures. The Irishman will be released in select UK cinemas and on Netflix this Autumn.

JT LeRoy Trailer

JT LeRoy tells the story of one of the literary world’s most infamous hoaxes. The film stars Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Diane Kruger, and Jim Sturgess. Directed by Justin Kelly, JT LeRoy will be released in cinemas and on Digital HD on 16th August 2019.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood Trailer

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood feels like the kind of film we need about now. The film is about Mister Rogers and his friendship with journalist Tom Junod. Directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), the film stars Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is set for release in UK cinemas on 6th December 2019.

Zombieland: Double Tap Trailer

Here is the trailer for Zombieland: Double Tap. A belated sequel to the 2009 hit Zombieland, the film sees director Ruben Fleischer reunite with stars Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin. Zombieland: Double Tap hits UK screens on 18th October 2019.