Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Film Review: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)

Director: Frank Capra
Running time: 125 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): U

USA release date: 7th January 1947

Watched on Sky+ Tuesday 28th December 2010.


I have heard many times that this is a classic Christmas film over the years but it has always evaded me, until now. I decided it was time I saw what all the fuss was about and took the plunge when it came up on the TV schedules recently. To be honest, it’s better than what I was expecting, although still a little too saccharine in places for my taste. But I digress, here’s a very brief summary before I give you more of my thoughts (summary haters please save that drowning angel while I write the next paragraph).

George Bailey grew up in the small town of Bedford Falls. He has always wanted to leave and travel the world and find his fortune but the fates have always prevented his leaving. His father runs a local Building and Loan company with George’s uncle Billy and when his father dies it is George that is chosen to carry on the business. His brother, Harry, who was supposed to take over when he left college, gets a better offer. Even when he gets married himself, to Mary, and they are about to leave on honeymoon, he is drawn back to the town. When a local businessman, Mr Potter, refuses him a loan after some money is lost, this is the last straw for George and he decides to take his own life, thinking he is worth more dead than alive. At this point an Angel (second class) called Clarence intervenes and shows George what life would be like if he had never existed, and I’m here to tell you it ain’t pretty. Better not say any more, don’t want to give the ending away.

This is a very well made film, with excellent direction from Frank Capra and a tremendous performance from James Stewart as George Bailey. He really steals the show here and, not surprisingly, was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar. Honourable mentions must also go to; Donna Reed as Mary Hatch, Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter, Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy and Henry Travers as Clarence.

As I said at the beginning, I found this film a little too saccharine in places, but it’s still a great film and deserves its ‘Classic’ label. It is a very long film which mostly deals with events in George’s life that lead up to his attempted suicide and it is all very well done. If you haven’t seen it before I can highly recommend this film. I am not a religious man myself, but still enjoyed it.

My score: 8.7/10

IMDb Page: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0038650/
Trailer: http://uk.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK/video/screenplay/vi1101988121/


Nick L. said...

Nice review. I watched this last night. I try to watch it every year during the holidays. It's been one of my favorites ever since I was 10 years old. But how did you find it "very long"? It's only two hours and ten minutes long...

SteelMonster said...

Thanks for the comment Nick! I guess I didn't explain that very well, by "very long" I meant that for the time it was made it was very long. Back in 1946 the average feature was less than 90 minutes long.