It’s a Wonderful Life has never before been a part of my Christmas viewing. Out of nostalgia I’ve to stuck to the hokier entries like Home Alone or Christmas Vacation. More serious entries like A Christmas Carol (1951) creeped me out with its canned soundtrack and sinister atmosphere. The main reason I’ve never seen It’s a Wonderful Life is that is was never on TV. My Christmas viewing as a kid almost never involved videos but I was always excited for annual specials and movies on TV.
CTV showed some odd films on Christmas Eve. For a while they played Titanic and then The Sound of Music. Of course these films have literally nothing to do with Christmas. Maybe it is better I didn’t see It’s a Wonderful Life as a kid, and that I didn’t view it through the lens of Christmas nostalgia. As it is, I completely fell in love with this film. It’s gorgeous. I let it carry me on its emotional roller coaster. I felt in tune with James Stewart in his usual role as the all American man, George Bailey, who comes to realize he is the important man he has always wanted to be.
In that moment of his realization, when George hugs his family, I found myself crying quite unexpectedly. It was as pure a cinematic moment as I’ve ever seen and untainted with preconceptions. I was lucky to see it without knowing much about it. I think it would have been a much different experience if I’d known any more than what Pheobe Buffay says in Friends. It’s a Wonderful Life is compulsively watchable and approachable. James Stewart oozes pathos because, who hasn’t felt unappreciated in life? Who hasn’t wished to have their importance quantified, or be told that all their ambiguous decisions amounted to a ‘wonderful life’? The film speaks to the most selfish part of us, but leaves us ready to embrace our loved ones, and believe, if for a moment, that our actions are meaningful.