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Cinema Review: It's A Wonderful Life (****)

Amy Taylor revisits a film favourite.

James Stewart’s favourite performance is just one of the elements that add to the enduring appeal of Frank Capra’s well-known Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Featuring an all-star cast, a poignant message and plenty of feel-good vibes, this film is a welcome addition to the Filmhouse’s Christmas season.

Set in the picturesque town of Bedford Falls, It’s a Wonderful Life follows selfless business man, George Bailey (James Stewart) as the circumstances of his life lead him to consider suicide on Christmas Eve. But he is unexpectedly saved by Clarence (Henry Travers) an angel who attempts to dissuade George from ending his life by showing him what would have happened to the people he loves the most, including his wife, Mary (Donna Reed) if he’d never been born.

Capra’s 1946 existential ode to Christmas, the season of good will and one man’s sacrifices on behalf of others has become something of a cult classic in the decades following its original release date. Now one of the most popular Christmas films ever made, the themes and ideas that are revealed throughout the movie are just as relevant now as they were in the 1940s, and with Britain now facing a new age of austerity, it may be that It’s a Wonderful Life could soon be so much more appropriate during the festive season.

But putting the theme of money, or the lack of it aside, this film is not just a film for Christmas but one for the whole year, as it manages to encapsulate a warm and loving feeling that never fails to create a sense of togetherness and also warms even the coldest of hearts. Stewart and Reed are an unforgettable and believable couple who manage to stay together in the hardest of circumstances, but it’s Travers, in his role as the overlooked and kindly angel, that really gives It’s a Wonderful Life a real sense of wonder and appreciation that is so fitting for this time of year.

Tags: cinema

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