Now considered a classic, and one of the greatest films ever made; Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas story ‘Its a wonderful life” featuring Jimmy Stewart was initially a flop at the box office. It was panned by audiences and critics as sentimental and unrealistically ending. Post war cynicism and nihilism had by then well set in to a populace too fatigued to be inspired any more.
It took decades for people to warm to the film, as it entered the public domain and was played every Christmas time, along with all the usual films, and I had seen it as a boy numerous times, never putting too much thought into its deeper story, which is a dark tale of the existential crisis of a middle aged man foregoing his own aspirations and dreams, to help his family, and community. They all go on to thrive and progress, while he’s left behind unfulfilled, eventually becoming resentful, frustrated and depressed. Then the economy crashes, and his business- that so many people depend on is put in jeopardy. Things steadily go from bad to worse for our protagonist – George Bailey, till, in serious debt and at risk of imprisonment he is told that, thanks to his life insurance policy, he is actually worth more dead than alive. Suicidal and despairing, and concluding that there was only one way to save the business and the livelihoods of those around him, he is about to throw himself off a bridge, then something happens that will turn his life around.
For me, decades later, seeing it again as a middle aged man myself; having gone through similar woes, it resonated in a way it never had before. I saw myself in George Bailey, and there were lessons in the movie that, though quaint on screen, hold profound significance to any father whose life has collapsed around him, and he thinks the only way to make things right is to take his own life. Please watch this movie. It might be just the medicine you need to turn your own life around.