It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)


A timeless Christmas classic. Facing financial ruin, a do-good family man contemplates what the world would have been like without him.

Beware the following will contain plot detail.

At this time of year, the bombardment of Christmas festivities comes with it numerous traditional films. However, there really is only one. One that has outlasted the trends with 5 Oscar nominations to its name. It is of course It’s a Wonderful Life (IAWL) but, given a description of it, most are turned away by the somewhat dire premise and the fact it’s in black and white.

Based on a book from 1945, the life of George Bailey (Stewart) is the centrepiece of IAWL, who dreams of leaving the small, sleepy town of Bedford Falls and travelling the world. When George misplaces company money that could land him in jail, he reaches his breaking point and verges on the edge of a bridge. Dramatic indeed. However, Clarence (Travers), an angel sent from Heaven, suddenly appears and shows him what would have transpired to his family and friends had he not existed.

Not exactly boundless Christmas joy, but then it explores the full range of human emotion and is all the more poignant for it. To dig deeper, IAWL shows the heart-warming nature of family life alongside the struggle of achieving the American dream, albeit in retrospect, there is a tinge of propaganda. Hopefully this will answer the doubter’s concerns and turning it down because there isn’t any colour could be considered the film equivalent of racism.

Despite turning 70 this year, IAWL is no less relevant as it appeals to the spirit of generosity which is the essence of modern Christmas. Although I experienced moments where I felt it was dragging on slightly too long, the ending more than makes up for it. The finale was a genuine surprise and, overall, there is a great balance between being a Christmas film without being 100% reliant on it. This then is not just a film for Christmas but a film for life.


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