If there’s one theme Hollywood has milked more than any other, it’s family. From “A Field of Dreams” to “The Lion King,” it’s evident that family relations are the easiest, and perhaps most cliche, way to develop relatable characters.
However, many cliches exist because they are often accurate. As any AP English Literature student will testify, Aristotle himself defines family relations as one of the core aspects of tragedy.
Fortunately, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” masterfully evades the pitfall of cheesy monotony. It’s not that Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks) reinvents empathetically pleasing character development; the story heavily relies on familial relationships. Rather, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” executes this theme exceptionally well.
Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a journalist (which perhaps sways my ability to relate) with a charismatically funny wife, an adorable baby son and a drunken, disloyal father. At the surface level, it looks all too common and even a little predictable. Dig deeper, however, and one will find a rich moral more raw than any other. The film, simply put, features tear-jerking moments that are rarely made by actors who aren’t named Tom Hanks.
Ultimately, though, while Hanks in a leading role can certainly make any movie shine, it’s the lesser-known Matthew Rhys who truly brought this film to an elite level. The depth that Rhys brought to a character that could’ve been left as a one-dimensional shadow behind Hanks’s spotlight was refreshingly unexpected.
As it turned out, this movie about Mr. Rogers wasn’t really about Mr. Rogers; it was about Lloyd Vogel, and by extension, the audience. Compared to the god-like pedestal on which Mr. Rogers sits, Vogel is a flawed everyman: a kind of character with great emotional potential.
Rhys capitalizes on the potential he’s given, and as a result, a masterpiece is now in theaters, making the neighborhood of all viewers a little more beautiful.