After another viewing of this compelling and heartwarming holiday classic last evening, I knew that this had to be my next blog entry. It is definitely a tradition in my family to watch this film every Christmas Eve – we reflect on the roads travelled throughout the year, their journeys and destinations, and what we have learned from them. This film definitely stimulates those thoughts and a discussion of that nature.
Set in the town of Bedford Falls, the film takes us through the life journey of George Bailey, earnestly played by Jimmy Stewart. He can never quite escape the town which he desperately wants to rid himself of. He continues to be drawn back into the financial politics between the townspeople and the greedy, manipulative villain, Henry Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore. As the majority of the film is told in flashback, we are brought to the present near the end, where George reaches a point of hopelessness. It is through a guardian angel that he realizes the importance of his role in the community, and that he does indeed have “a wonderful life”.
I can’t imagine watching this film at the time of its release. While George himself did not go to war (you will learn why in the film), the battle and challenges that he faced in his daily life with his adversary drove him to desolation. Individuals returning home from the war probably wanted to watch very uplifting portrayals of war heroes, but our protagonist’s struggles must have been quite pertinent (perhaps, a little too pertinent) to those faced by individuals at home. As a result, the film did not do well at the box office initially upon release. Another film, “The Best Years of Our Lives” swept the Oscars in the same year, which explored the post-war lives of three soldiers upon their return home, all quite varied but not without financial, emotional, and social challenges. Both films must have been very tangible to moviegoers, but it took some time for “It’s a Wonderful Life” to find its traction over the years. However, public domain on multiple networks allowed multiple viewers to discover the importance of the film’s message, and that has led to the film becoming one of the most appreciated and loved films of all time.
George Bailey and most of the other characters in the film are timeless. They dedicate their lives to public service, are hardworking, and make personal sacrifices so that others around them can prosper and flourish. This dedication can be quite exhausting and overwhelming. It is important to be reminded that all individuals contribute to a society, whether it be within a familial group, municipal, or even on an international level. Yes, one individual could be limited by lack of resources and manpower, but their endowment to man is unique and appreciated. This film reminds us that our life journeys intertwine with others and have an influence on their daily lives as well. It reminds us of something that all humans desire – that we all matter.
Note: I do not own the above image.