Now a film that is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face: number 23 on the top 1000 films of all time, Frank Capra’s 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life.
George Bailey is a man down on his luck. His housing loan business is threatened with bankruptcy and on Christmas Eve, he contemplates suicide. This is when his guardian angel appears and shows him what his small town of Bedford Falls would have been like, if he had never been born.
This film is charming, heart-warming and uplifting without ever becoming cheesy or overly-sentimental, which I think is one of the film’s greatest strengths. Its engagement with themes of community, family and collectivism become most apparent, when the Bedford Falls townspeople rally around the main character and donate more than enough money to save his business. This film ends with the townspeople singing in unison, whilst the Bailey family reflect on this Christmas miracle. Whilst this sounds very corny on paper, it was portrayed in such a way, where it was a very sweet and left me with a big smile on my face.
The main character also worked well as a character, as his conflicts were so believable and relatable. George Bailey as a young man dreams of travelling the world, before becoming an architect and designing buildings that would bring happiness to all. However, he is forced to take over his father’s business after his father dies. The fact that George Bailey’s goals and drams are blocked by life, is what makes him such a believable, interesting and engaging character. James Stewart is great in this role. From a happy, go-lucky young man to a stressed man at his wit’s end, James Stewart plays each part brilliantly.