I honestly don’t know how I haven’t seen this film at some point in my life. Not even bits of it! It really is a film everyone should see at least once. It is a charming, feel-good film that left me with tears rolling down my cheeks but a smile on my face.
I watched the black and white version, but the pictures on IMDB do suggest there is a version in colour also. There’s something about the film that reminds me of the Dicken’s tale A Christmas Carol, though the storyline isn’t really similar.
The story centres on George Bailey, and starts off with a conversation in heaven about George in trouble and about to face his critical moment. The angels narrate the first part of the movie depicting the background to the man that George is, from a good natured child who looks out for others, to a man who spends his life putting the needs of others ahead of his own needs and wants.
Because of George and the small loans company he takes over, however resignedly, from his father, many of the townsfolk have homes of their own having escaped the slums owned by the local business tyrant Mr Potter, who spends much of his time trying to force the small loans company out of business.
Time after time we watch George give up what he wants because someone needs him to do something more. You can understand that this is a man who could reach the end of his life and look back with bitterness and regret, but he doesn’t. He makes the best of his lot and does it cheerfully.
Until a mishap sees a large sum of company money misplaced and it seems Mr Potter will finally see him out of business for good. With no where to turn it seems George has lost all hope and he contemplates taking his own life for the insurance money.
Enter guardian angel Clarence, who grants George the wish of never being born, and in doing so shows George the difference his life made to everyone in the town.
It’s a really nice demonstration of the idea of the butterfly effect and the intricacies of impact which people have on one another’s lives, the effects of which cannot be foreseen. It also makes the point really well that no ones life is meaningless, despite what they feel hasn’t been achieved, and making the best of your situation.
There are a few laughs with some great lines and circumstance, might not hold the interest of younger kids but there’s nothing too harmful for the older kids, just an odd punch thrown but certainly no protracted violence. The charm of old-school movies is their reliance on story rather than action and effects.
This one is sure to put a smile on your face!
Directed by Frank Capra.
Starring James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore