Brief Review: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Part #5 of the 2017 Christmas Countdown.

It’s easy to see why Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life regularly tops polls for best Christmas movies; it’s the quintessential festive film.  It encompasses the full range of human emotions – you’ll feel sad, despair, hopeful and by the end you’ll be weeping tears of joy.

Well, if you’re a big softy like me anyway.

George Bailey (James Stewart) is a real pillar of the community.  He’s a jovial chap who’ll put his friends and family’s needs before his own without hesitation.  Unfortunately, life takes advantage of George’s selflessness and throws obstacle after obstacle at him, gradually chipping away at his happiness.

Eventually, George is reduced to a miserable shell of his former self.  Just as he’s toying with the idea of suicide, his guardian angel, Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes and shows him the positive impact he has had on the lives of those around him.

George Bailey’s story is an incredibly inspiring one.  Everything that brings him down, from financial peril to family troubles, is something that most people can relate to.  We’ve all felt at least some of the feelings that George visibly struggles with, and watching him overcome the odds is genuinely heart-warming.

The director, Frank Capra, understood that to truly appreciate the highs in life one must experience the lows.  We see George sink to the depths of depression, so when he is pulled back from the brink of suicide by Clarence, the highs that follow are nigh on euphoric.

James Stewart turns in a wonderful performance.  He’s charming, witty, kind and generous, which makes his downward spiral all the more affecting.  We believe everything that George goes through, every feeling he experiences is etched clearly on Stewart’s face, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role.

It’s a Wonderful Life is a timeless classic.  It’s an inspiring tale brought to life by a towering central performance.  Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it.


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