It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Directed by: Frank Capra
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers
Ever since watching it for the first time four years ago, It’s a Wonderful Life is a film that I just have to revisit each and every Christmas season. Telling the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a compassionate yet suicidal businessman who is shown by his guardian angel, Clarence (Henry Travers), what life would have been like if he never existed, It’s a Wonderful Life is a life-affirming classic that has truly earned its place as one of my favourite films of all time.
By the way, I watched this film again and will always watch this film the way they intended back in 1946; in black and white. I have been tempted at times to check out the colour version but then I simply think, “What the hell is the point?” It may sound stupid but watching a colour version of a film like It’s a Wonderful Life would ruin the film’s magic a little.
A wonderful film like this deserves a wonderful lead performance and it certainly gets that in the form of James Stewart, an actor who can deliver all of the comedy and drama that a role like this requires with such quality. I’m ashamed to say this is the only James Stewart film I’ve ever seen but if he delivers as good a performance in his other films as he does here, I’ll be looking to watch them as soon as possible.
The film’s narrative is another aspect of the film I really admire. The majority of the film shows flashbacks through George Bailey’s life from the perspective of Clarence and his fellow guardian angels, from a young George saving his brother’s life right through to his courtship of his future wife Mary, played by the beautiful Donna Reed. It’s a narrative that really takes the time to introduce us to this character and the important moments in his life, meaning we really care about the man as the film reaches its final act.
When it does reach its final act, it’s a film that delivers such a powerful and emotional punch to the audience. Watching this man contemplate suicide and then see what life would have been like had he never existed is a tough watch however, it’s all undone by a wonderful closing scene that sees the community of Bedford Falls come together to help the man who has helped all of them at one point in his life. It’s a scene that makes me well up every single time and it’s a note perfect ending for a note perfect film. If it doesn’t fill you with unbridled joy, you simply have no soul.
Verdict: 10 out of 10