Shiny Shelf

It’s A Wonderful Life

By Eddie Robson on 03 November 2002

Rather ahead of schedule, this DVD release of the finest Christmas movie ever made, but it does at least give you plenty of time to pick up a copy before the holidays. I’m not sure what I can add to the substantial praise already lavished on this film over the years, just encourage those who haven’t seen it to do so at once. Well, maybe not at once: maybe you’ll want to save it for December.

The idea of a man being shown what the world would be like if he’d never been born has been copied many, many times, which is why it’s slightly surprising to realise that it doesn’t form the bulk of the film: it’s the culmination of a much longer narrative. We see the life of George Bailey in its entirety, with all the failures that have convinced him that the world would be a better place without him, that he has contributed nothing.

Critics of director Frank Capra will tell you that he paints too rosy a view of humanity, but this movie is essentially about looking on the bright side of a bad situation, no matter how bad it gets (and it does). Capra’s construction of the story is masterful, replicating the emotional sweeps of a symphony. It also gives Jimmy Stewart, perhaps the finest screen actor of all time, the opportunity to demonstrate some versatility as the events of George’s life change him as a person.

OK, so it’s on TV every other Christmas, but this really is one of those movies that’s worth owning on an imperishable format because you’ll get many years of viewing pleasure from it. I’ve watched it every Christmas since 1998 and it never loses its power: in fact, it’s one of the reasons that I look forward to Christmas, for an excuse to watch it again. The ending has never failed to draw a tear yet (and I don’t usually cry at movies unless it’s something really heart-rending, like Optimus Prime dying in Transformers: The Movie). You can guarantee that I’ll be doing it all over again come Christmas.

Buy It’s a Wonderful Life now from Blackstar.

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By Eddie Robson

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