It’s rare that a man’s story can drag you to such depths, and then lift you up higher than you were before. In my opinion, it’s the greatest Christmas film of all time, even though it doesn’t seem like a “Christmas film.”
It’s A Wonderful Life stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man who was raised to put everyone else before himself. He saved his brother from an icy lake, gave up his dreams to run his family business, and used his honeymoon cash to save that business from going under in a moment of panic. If you love your father, you can’t help but see him like he’s George Bailey, and the man is exactly the type we can all aspire to be.
Eventually, the world stops giving back to George, and that leaves him in a dark, dark place. He wishes he was never born, and then comes along an angel who shows him what that would be like. Much to his surprise, the world isn’t better off without him—in fact, it was much better with him around. In case you live under a rock and haven’t seen it, the film contains perhaps the happiest ending in the history of cinema, capable of making me tear up by thinking about it.
If I had to criticize anything, it’s that it takes George a very long time to reach his breaking point. The angelic enlightenment takes up maybe a third of the film. Still, though, there’s no guarantee that the film would be as potent if it were changed, and so I must accept it as it is.
There will always be greedy old white men trying to lay claim to civilization, and that’s disappointing. But as long as there are men like George Bailey, and as long as we can recognize them when they’re with us, it just might be a wonderful life after all.
It’s a Wonderful Life is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.