#30: It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

This is a Christmas film.
It is October.
I shall write this post in December, when it is seasonally appropriate.


I don’t think anyone will disagree with my decision to save this film for Christmas Day. It’s a seasonal classic, and to not watch it during the appropriate festivities would cost it its crucial charm. You see, It's a Wonderful Life is a film that depends on your emotional involvement. Of course, this can still be achieved at any time of the year, as the characters are drawn boldly and yet still carefully enough for us to form a quick but lasting attachment. Nevertheless, we in the west have a cultural intolerance for anything going wrong at Christmas, and of course this is heightened when our own turkeys are in the oven.
The movie starts in the stars, where angels are discussing the prayers sent Heavenward for George Bailey (James Stewart). They decide an intervention is necessary to prevent his suicide, and they show Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers), a second-class angel yet to get his wings, the story of George’s life, featuring his relationship with his wife Mary (Donna Reed) before sending Clarence down to help the poor fellow out. The telling of George’s story takes up the majority of the film, much more than I remembered, with the angel only arriving in the last half an hour or so. 
We warm to George easily, as he is an intelligent, adventurous and generous-spirited young man, with a quick wit and a natural desire to make others feel safe and happy. Yet, this desire to help others holds him back from achieving his own dreams, a regret which becomes to define him. And so, when things go wrong, he quickly despairs of himself and those around him. He undervalues his real achievements, his own worth, and even the worth of his family. Oh my did I cry. Even though I knew it would all end up alright (mainly because it’s a Christmas film, although I’ve seen it many times before).
Director and producer Frank Capra balances all the various aspects of It's a Wonderful Life to perfection, which is what makes it so infinitely rewatchable, I think. We have a feeling of soberness and sincerity balanced with humour, fun and inspiring optimism. Sure, there is poverty and corruption in the world, but this film holds out in hope for the human race, with its closing advice: “Remember no man is a failure who has friends”. 
Oh, and Clarence does get his wings.