Christmas Film Advent- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Zuzu’s petals… You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.
Length: 2 Hr 15
About: George Bailey has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all – and it’s Christmas! As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence – who then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds over the years.
It’s not a film I’ve watched loads, but it is one I’ve adored with all my heart. I can’t remember the first time I watched it but it’s a significant one for some of my best Christmases. From having a class in school grumble that I’ve put it on to only go and fall in love with its charm, to a bittersweet watch in the cinema in Liverpool with my brother not long after our mum died.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but my instincts tell me it’s still ageing very well.
- Mr Potter is a bit of a nasty bastard and while he makes for a perfect foil to the Bailey family: I hate him. I want to punch him; so hard, in his vile fucking face. I hate what his actions do to the family; George, obviously. But mainly Uncle Billy. Darling, sweet and forgetful Uncle Billy. What I hate more than anything though?! People like Mr Potter exist in real life and will never lose sleep at the destruction they cause.
- Good ol’ Jimmy Stuwart. I couldn’t imagine anyone better in the role of George Bailey and if Hollywood dares to remake this; I’m done. He’s the charming and wholesome leading man who is also able to handle the darker sides of characters; Bailey being no exception to this. There’s buckets of emotions for George Bailey; from being able to relate to unrealised dreams to his frustration, hopelessness and desperation. That opening image of James Stewart is perfect; George showing the shop teller how big he wants his suitcase and it pauses for Clarence to have a good look at the man he’s to save.
- Clarence. Beautiful, childlike and rabbit-IQ’d Clarence is a heartwarming addition to the narration plot and is a delight to see interact with George in the final act. If there’s anything that will reduce me to tears every time, it will be the fact that good Clarence gets his wings as a result of his time on Earth with George. On the note of the celestial narrators, I love the opening sequence with the angels appearing as stars. It’s simplicity makes it so incredibly beautiful and something that no amount of technological advances could ever improve upon.
- The story is an epic that is well paced and jammed packed with George’s life; the highs and the lows. For a film to start and focus on such a dark note, speak so candidly about suicide and still leave the viewer uplifted and full of hope that a community can come together at a time of need is such a commendable feat and it should be on everyone’s viewing list at some point.
- My favourite scene will always be George rescuing the Savings and Loans company on his wedding day and sacrificing his honeymoon to do so. Upon asking Ms Davies (The Walton’s Ellen Corby) how much she’d need until the bank reopens her reply is a humbled ‘seventeen fifty’. It’s a joyous and heartwarming interaction between herself and George and a stark contrast to the man who wants to clear out his account.
I love this film. A testament to it is the fact that it’s not something I want, or need, to watch every year and is actually something I will always try and bring new people to each time I watch. It’s bravery at approaching a topic like mental health and suicide was, and still is, ahead of its time. The religious aspect of the sanctity of life is subtle enough and sends the message of support, guidance and help rather than judgement, condemnation and isolation. In a world where those who suffer from issues beyond their physical control, it’s good to see a supportive view that George’s predicament is not a sign of weakness.