FEW festive films encapsulate Christmas spirit as much as It’s A Wonderful Life, showing in selected cinemas across North Wales in the lead up to December 25.
The beloved story follows George Bailey (James Stewart) - the owner of a building and loan company in the small town of Bedford Falls.
Despite always yearning to travel the world, George’s commitment to his family and neighbours is so great he must remain there to ensure the sinister Mr Potter (Lionel Barrymore) does not completely takeover his quaint town.
But when some money goes missing from his business, George contemplates ending his life in a moment of desperation.
That is until an angel called Clarence comes and shows him what the world would be like if George Bailey did not exist.
Despite the gaggle of Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Director and Actor for James Stewart, It’s A Wonderful Life not only missed out on a golden statue, but also suffered relatively poor Box Office returns when it was released in 1946.
Where it found new life was in television syndication. Occasional showings in the 1950s peaked modest interest, but when its copyright lapsed in 1973 regular rotation each year saw it affirmed as being as much a tradition as putting up the Christmas tree.
Unashamedly charming and sweet, director Frank Capra’s focus on ordinary, kind-spirited ‘townsfolk’ and Christmas miracles is what makes the film so quintessentially seasonal.
In addition to carefully framing every shot while drawing notable performances out of each cast member, Capra also shines in confidently presenting the eclectic narrative.
What starts as a tale of a young boy growing up shifts gears constantly, bringing in elements of love story, drama, and a supernatural twist in the form of good-intentioned Clarence.
A celebrated cast including Barrymore’s nasty turn as the stereotypical villain Mr Potter (a pleasure to watch), and Donna Reed as love interest Mary fill their roles admirably.
But the lynchpin of the film is certainly James Stewart, with his absorbing performance as George.
His first film after the Second World War, Stewart demonstrates his versatility as we see the town ‘nice-guy’ slip into suicidal tendencies, while still remaining a sympathetic character.
And in true Golden-Era Hollywood style, a happy ending is not only expected but warmly welcomed.
A little twee it may be for some modern audiences, but It’s A Wonderful Life is sure to remain a perennial Christmas classic, and a staple of film history which is not to be missed on the big screen.
9/10 - Wonderful.