Cert PG Stars 4
Tom Hanks is at his most disarming and subtle as a real life US TV icon in this soulful, therapeutic and irresistible family drama.
We’re not familiar with the saintly Fred Rogers over here, but for over four decades he hosted a PlayAway style kids show, and the film suggests he was so popular and beloved he was capable of inspiring an impromptu singalong on the subway simply by sitting there.
However Matthew Rhys’s cynical investigative journalist is hoping to uncover some dirt underneath Roger’s spotless halo.
This seems a reasonable proposition as the cardigan wearing Rodgers seems remarkably old fashioned even in 1998 when the film is set, particularly as TV stars of my 1970s childhood have been revealed to be far from wholesome.
Rhys is full of barely suppressed anger, even more so when he finds himself on the end of a gentle inquisition from Rogers regarding his own estranged relationship with his father and the difficulties of bonding with his new born son.
And you have to feel sorry for the actor as the superb Hanks quietly steals the film from him, earning himself a Best supporting actor nod with his 6th Oscar nomination.
An avuncular, polite, generous and humble dispenser of wisdom, Rodgers often feels a distant relative of Hanks’ 1995 Oscar winning role as Forrest Gump.
And intent on bringing out the best in everyone he meets, he’s essentially an American Paddington Bear, but without the marmalade sandwiches.
Directed by with a firm, sensitive and accomplished hand by Marielle Heller, she drives the film from the backseat and allows the actors to hold our attention.
Though far less needy and attention grabbing her staging and camerawork are in their own way as impressive as that in First World War film, 1917, and she deploys the power of silence with a nuclear emotional efficiency.
Plus the TV theme tune is impossibly catchy, and you’ll be humming it on the way out through your tears.