If you are wondering if you should take your kids to see the new Mr. Rogers movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the answer is no. At least, not if they are younger than 13. Here's why.
Okay, perhaps I should back up.
I had the privilege of seeing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood twice – at a Nashville screening in September and at the red carpet premiere last night in Pittsburgh. At both showings I was moved to tears by the movie's poignant storytelling. I loved the movie.
That said, I was surprised when I learned that the movie had been given a PG rating. As a mom of an 11-year-old, 8-year-old and almost 5-year-old, I know PG movies. A Beautiful Day is NOT a PG movie. These are the reasons I would go see this movie with friends or your spouse instead of your kids. (No real spoilers in this post besides some general descriptions.)
The movie is not what you think it is
The commercials for the movie make it seem that the movie is going to be heavily about Mr. Rogers and his show. In the trailer you see all the iconic moments – Mr. Rogers putting on his sweater, tying his shoes, the trolley, the puppets, etc. And yes, all those moments are there, but A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not a movie about those things.
Instead at its core, it is about the way Mr. Rogers treated people. In particular, how the way he treated a reporter named Lloyd Vogel, loosely based on writer Tom Junod, changed Lloyd's life and the trajectory of his family's life.
The biggest piece of feedback I heard at the screenings, was, “that was not what I was expecting. I loved the movie, but I thought it was going to be something else.” This is exactly how I felt. If you want to expose your kids to the magic of Mr. Rogers that you remember from your childhood, watch some episodes of his show instead of this movie.
Complicated family situations and themes
The biggest reason why I wouldn't recommend taking kids to this movie is because of the very adult emotions and situations that are presented in the movie. Some of the scenes you can expect:
- A physical fight between an adult father and son
- Verbal disagreements surrounding Lloyd's childhood, which includes loss of a loved one and abandonment
- An older person very sick/dying
- Emotions dealing with unforgiveness, bitterness and sadness
- Discussions around the tensions of having a baby/going back to work
- Choices around how to care for family when they are sick
Certainly I am not a parent who is afraid to talk to my kids about hard situations or think that children should be shielded from pain. In fact, I think it is important for parents to have dialogues with their children about issues like the ones presented in the movie. But because these painful, difficult situations are all presented together in one film, I don't think it is a movie for young children. It's a lot to take in all at once, particularly for a young mind. The movie also has a lot of nuance and subtly that I think would go over most young children's heads.
For adults, this movie is incredibly tender, moving and redemptive. You see Lloyd's heart radically change in large part due to Mr. Rogers' words and kindness toward him and his family. Viewers see the way Mr. Rogers took genuine interest in every person he met and the impact this had on Lloyd. But, the way this is shown in part is through a lot of tough, painful emotions and scenes.
None of the scenes involve language and everything is presented in a tasteful manner, which is why I think the movie was given a PG rating. But, thematically it is not appropriate for young kids – tweens. It's not a light movie. My oldest is 11 and I will likely wait about two years before allowing him to see it. For mature tweens – teens, I think this movie would be an awesome opportunity to have some deeply meaningful conversations.
One person at the junket said it's for the child in your heart, not the child in your life.
And that sums it up perfectly.
Affiliate links used in this post.