‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings’.

And George Bailey certainly was Bedford Falls’ angel. Three cheers for basic human decency. This really is one beautiful story.

A film for the heart

Now, let’s forget all the films about Father Christmas and the absurd Elf. Instead, make room for It’s a Wonderful Life. Why? I hear you ask. Well, because it demonstrates the very best and worst of humanity. Its message is a simple but necessary one: love is the best of what we do and who we are as people.

For those of you who haven’t seen the film, here’s a basic synopsis. (Warning! This article does contain some spoilers.)

George Bailey has dedicated his entire life to the town of Bedford Falls, trampling on his own dreams in the process. Along the way, he becomes resentful and his own sacrifices force him into a desperate spiral that sees George wanting to end his life. That is … until a certain angel, called Clarence, helps him to find his way home.

James Stewart, the film’s lead, was so touched by the story that he admitted to Michael Parkinson it was his favourite role of all time.

Bedford Falls or Berkshire, Hampshire?

It’s A Wonderful Life is filled with powerful themes, some of which resonate with our society today. This is especially so during our pandemic ordeal. Approaching a two-year milestone since the word ‘Covid’ began circulating, communities are working together to donate food, shop for their elderly neighbours and run errands for family members.

I heard a story last week about a man from Hampshire called Brian Pettifer. Five years ago, his wife sadly died. As a way to keep busy, he started running Christmas activities for children on his estate. Previously, Mr Pettifer spent Christmas mornings delivering presents. But this year he wanted to do something more. After six months of decorating and putting up lights, Santa’s Post Room was unveiled. Local children can come along with their parents and send letters to Father Christmas. Each and every letter written receives a reply.

Not ‘the most wonderful time of the year’

It’s A Wonderful Life brims with relatable social issues, such as mental angst and suicidal thoughts.

The pandemic has caused the topic of mental health to gain momentum. And Christmas is often the worst time for some of us who struggle with mental health issues. Indeed, the film’s protagonist, George Bailey, battles with depression before deciding to attempt suicide. However, Angel Clarence (with a little twist of magic), helps George gain some perspective to reexamine his life. The lesson we take is that our problems may be big, but it’s how we perceive them, and ourselves, that really makes the difference.

Does the villain always get his comeuppance?

My one criticism of Its A Wonderful Life is the outcome for the film’s villain, Mr Potter. Potter steals $8,000 to deliberately trap George, but nothing comes of that villainous deed. Instead, we see the community rally behind George when he needs it most. Love encourages kindness, so perhaps the absence of retribution for Potter doesn’t really matter. As George’s father says: ‘all you can take with you is that which you’ve given away’, meaning that the true value of anything lies in your actions and the friendships and loves you cultivate throughout your lifetime. This is the only measure against which a person should set their bar of expectations.

Final words 

It’s A Wonderful Life rather wonderfully demonstrates the true spirit of Christmas: Love. After all, that’s the message that Jesus brought with him.

Take care.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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