Friday, 16 December 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

This is officially the best Christmas film ever made. Made in 1946, it tells the story of a guy called George Bailey, played by the ever-dashing James Stewart, who reluctantly spends his life in the little town of Bedford Falls in New England and contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve before being distracted by his guardian angel, Clarence. George tells Clarence that it would have been better if he’d never been born, and of course Clarence decides to show George exactly what the world would have been like had he never existed.

The film touches on many Christmassy themes, but what resounds most with me is the idea that a man who never achieves his goals or gets what he wants can still have a wonderful life. George spends his whole life making sacrifices because his conscience tells him to: he never goes to college, he never travels, and he does a job he hates because no one else will do it. In every instance he kicks himself for giving in and letting himself get dragged down, but he’s so generous and kind that he sees everything through and makes an awful lot of other people’s lives much happier as a result of it. And what this means is that when George regrets ever having lived at all, Clarence is able to convince him of how important he is in the grand scheme of things.

It’s an uplifting movie. It ends with a family reunited, a happy little angel and a rendition of Auld Lang Syne. It’s the sort of movie you watch with mulled wine and a box of tissues. Or, at least, I do, because I’m disgustingly sentimental about old Hollywood films. It’s the sort of film that tries to change your perspective of life, and says, “Look carefully; it isn’t all that bad.”

Nearly every Hollywood movie made these days has a common theme: achieve your dreams. It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of a man who never achieved his dreams, but was still a worthwhile human being and managed to change the world for the better. Now there’s a happy message if ever there was one.

"You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"

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