Classic Intel: It's A Wonderful Life - Online Review

'Capra makes his argument for Christian values without ever making us set foot inside a Church'

Like any great text, the readings available for Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life are numerous and plausibly argued. It is difficult to imagine one with greater support though than the idea that Capra's film is an argument in support of a Christian lifestyle and the associated values of friendship, neighbourliness and honesty.

To newcomers, this idea might seem twee, difficult to swallow in its natural honesty, but Capra makes his argument without ever making us set foot inside a Church. Sure, there are grand gestures - the celestial beginning and the run through the streets at the end spring to mind - but by and large, It's A Wonderful Life makes an argument for Christian values without ramming religion down viewer's throats.

Again, like great texts, there would be little point in Capra's philosophical support of traditional values if they weren't wrapped up in satisfying narrative. The story of George Bailey (James Stewart) is complicated and warm, brought to life with convincing honesty and care by Stewart who, as in Capra's Mr Smith Goes To Washington a few years previously, takes a thankless role with minimal depth and turns it into a believable and endearing character study.

During the course of the perfectly-judged run time, Capra's love of long scenes reigns supreme but never does his imagery become stale or recycled. The oft-referenced bridge scene is magnificent but smaller judgements - like the camera's belittling of Stewart's significant statue - also standout. The fact that, over sixty years since its release, It's A Wonderful Life also has something simple to say about the current ecomonic climate bears witness to a creation that is merely one part festive favourite and several parts bona fide classic.

It's A Wonderful Life was playing on Sky Anytime for users with an appropriate subscription.

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'If this is a conservative movie, then I'm a six-foot tall rabbit.' - The Dancing Image


  1. If you one-two-three punch this with Harvey and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington you have yourself what I like to call "The Jimmy Stewart's Lessons in Living Trilogy." Sure none of the films are 'his' per say, but in each he represents an idealized - though still flawed - version of what we should strive to be more of in our daily lives.

    Great review!

  2. I just watched this for the first time on Christmas Eve last year, and I was surprised with how much I enjoyed the film. I was a little worried when the angel made an appearance, but I was very happy that religion wasn't shoved down our throats (as you stated). This is a great, heartwarming movie that is worthy of its recurring Christmastime showings.

  3. Univarn - recently grown to love watching him. Have reservations towards (the still great) Mr. Smith but really enjoyed watching him for two hours+. Need to check out some of his less famous turns.

    Eric - agree entirely Eric, I think it will probably be part of the Christmas ritual for me from now on.