A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Comprehensive Review

Transfiguring Adoption’s Thoughts:

When learning that there would be a biopic about Mr. Rogers, I became very excited because I remembered growing up and watching him so much as a child. He always seemed so genuinely nice and I was afraid that this movie would be a bit boring, as I never knew of Mr. Rogers having any scandalous skeletons in his closet and was intrigued as to what the climax of the movie would be. The way the movie intertwines the characters’ lives and gives some background information helped give the characters more depth and solicited empathy from the viewer in understanding why the characters are the way they are. This movie would be a great family film watching with your children who are developmentally older than 9 as there are some events that can be triggering for younger children.

**Spoilers Could Be Ahead**

How is this Relevant to Adoption and Foster Care?

Oftentimes, when we become a caregiver to our children we have very little information to go on. We expect one thing based on the phone call from placement and overtime after learning more about their history and life experiences, we are able to understand why they have become who they are. The main character in this film, Lloyd, struggles to understand Mr. Rogers’ wholesome image and expects to find some hidden secrets which he plans to expose. Based on Lloyd’s experience with his family, he has very little faith in humanity which has shaped his world view. Many of our children have this same viewpoint as they have learned to not trust people. Family secrets come to the surface throughout the film that has impacted the way Lloyd interacts with his own family. Many times, our children will learn things about where they came from which shapes their view on themselves, their biological family, and even the motives of the family they were fostered or adopted by. Lloyd continues on his journey for closure with the help of Mr. Rogers, and as a parent the ending provides the closure we would like for our children to experience.

Discussion Points:

  • Lloyd starts a fist fight with his father at a wedding
    Many of our children have experienced adults in their life physically fighting each other. Instead of being able to rely on their family to protect them, often the family is the one putting them in harm’s way. Despite the wedding being a positive affair, old wounds resurface at the worst possible time causing issues between father and son. Many of our children have memories that are tied to events that they have attended and it may be triggering for them. For example, Christmas may be considered a happy time to many but to our child they may remember arguments and fights around the holidays.
  • Lloyd continues to struggle with his father abandoning his mother
    Lloyd takes his father’s abandonment of his mother very personally. It seems that by abandoning his mother, Lloyd himself feels abandoned. Many of our children may also feel abandoned by someone important in their life. Lloyd also displays the desire to be the protector of his mother and family against who he believes is a bad person: his father. Many of our children act in parentified ways towards their siblings as they feel it is their duty to protect them, as the adults responsible proved to be incapable of doing so.
  • Mr. Rogers’ use of creative interviewing to get Lloyd to open up
    Mr. Rogers utilizes a method of play therapy that is often used to get children to talk. Despite Lloyd refusing to engage and shutting down, it created the ability for him to open up to Mr. Rogers in the future. This is a great thing to remember: that although we may attempt to connect with our children, they can still push us away. However, recognizing your attempt can help them feel more comfortable in the future to come to you when they feel comfortable doing so.
  • Lloyd confronting his father to air his grievances
    Lloyd displayed a lot of pent up anger in his rant towards his father. Lloyd got the ability to air his grievances to his father despite the consequences of his choice not being what he was anticipating. Many of our kids have a lot of grievances to air towards previous caregivers and never get the chance to do so. Seeing Lloyd express himself (although in a poor manner) shows that old wounds can still hurt years later and that releasing that anger can be therapeutic.
  • Lloyd’s reaction to his father going to the hospital
    Jerry’s subsequent heart attack, appeared to look caused by Lloyd’s rant towards him, causes Lloyd to isolate himself from his family. He refuses to stay overnight at the hospital with the rest of his family, instead choosing to leave for Pittsburgh to finish interviewing Mr. Rogers. Although Lloyd does not feel his presence at the hospital is required for his father’s sake, he fails to recognize that his presence can be incredibly helpful for his sister and his wife. Many of our children will isolate when presented with an issue as it is easier to withdraw than to deal with the situation head on. They may feel that they are not needed during an upsetting time as they may not view themselves as important to the situation.
  • Lloyd dealing with the terminal illness of his mother
    Despite the anger that he has towards his father, Lloyd’s anger stems from his intense love for his mother. When Lloyd visits her in the hospital in his dream, his mother is able to see how much pain he is in by keeping the anger towards his father bottled up. His mother encourages him to forgive his father. Lloyd uses his mother’s visit in his dream as a catalyst to make amends with his father. Depending on your child they may have no recollection of their biological family, however for the ones who do, they may have recurring dreams where the family is present. This provides an opportunity to explore what meaning they were able to gain from their dream.
  • Lloyd thinking about the people who “loved him into being”
    At Mr. Rogers’ prompting, Lloyd realizes that without his father, he would not have been able to have a relationship with his mother. Lloyd recognizes that he is parts of both of his parents, and that although his father made a mistake, he must have had some redeeming qualities for his mother to love him and choose him to be Lloyd’s father. Many of our children may think they are “bad” because they are a product of their biological parents, however that is simply not the case. It is important to speak highly of biological parents whenever possible because no matter what choices were made in the past, it resulted in a child we love as our own.
  • Lloyd making amends
    When Lloyd is able to forgive his father, he is also inspired to make amends with his wife Andrea and vows to be a better husband and a better father. This helps showcase how holding anger and resentment can affect the way we interact with others. Oftentimes, our children have repressed feelings that affect the way they interact with their adoptive or foster families. Sometimes it feels personal, but being present and helping them hold their story can allow them to forgive and form attachments with their new family.

Cautionary Points:

  • Physical fight between father and son
    If your child has been exposed to domestic violence or living in a high crime neighborhood, this scene can be triggering for our children. Being able to affirm that they are safe and physical violence will not happen to them within the new family unit can help them feel safe and secure.
  • Abandonment by parent
    Seeing flashbacks of Lloyd being abandoned by his biological father can remind our children of times they felt abandoned by the people in their life who are supposed to love and protect them. Feelings of abandonment can influence how they engage in relationships, whether familial, peer, or romantic.
  • Mild language such as “damn”, “what the hell”, and “holy crap”
    Oftentimes our children have heard worse language than this, however if you are very cautious of the words your children are exposed to, this should act as a cautionary point. Some children are triggered by these words as they acted as a precursor to other negative events.
  • Mild alcohol references (bourbon & beer)
    Although the references of alcohol are done in a sense of offering someone a bourbon or a beer, if your children have been exposed to substance abuse it is difficult for them to differentiate between the use of alcohol acceptably and unacceptably.
  • Nightmare of childhood trauma
    Seeing Lloyd have a nightmare of his childhood trauma can cause your children to remember some nightmares they have had about the trauma they experienced. Although the memories may not be completely accurate, it can still cause our children to experience anxiety and/or depression.
  • Death of parents
    Lloyd experiencing his mother dying at a young age can remind the children of the parents that they have lost, whether through death, abandonment, or termination of parenting rights. Children will grieve the loss of their biological families and that is perfectly natural. Understanding the five stages of grief and how to assist your child with navigating those feelings is tremendously helpful.

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NOTE: Inclusion on these lists does not necessarily mean endorsement. Furthermore, with all our resources, we highly recommend you preview them first to determine if there are any trauma triggers that your child may not be ready to handle. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its reviews to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.

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