12 Days of Christmas

As we count down to the big day, no doubt you’ll be looking to get into the yuletide spirit, and what better way to get you in the mood than to curling up with your loved ones and watching some Christmas films?

Over the next 12 entries we will be recommending the timeless classics, the hidden gems and the guilty pleasures for your festive viewing…

The ‘Perennial’ Christmas Film

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

You knew this was coming, but what better way to start than with Frank Capra’s seminal masterpiece?

The blueprint not only for the sentimental Christmas flick, but for any feel-good movie; post 1946 at least, anyway.

IAWL follows the ups and downs of George Bailey (played to perfection by loveable everyman, James Stewart), a small-town-man who sacrificed big dreams for the good of his community, Bedford Falls.

When problems arise on Christmas Eve, George contemplates suicide, only to have his guardian angel, Clarence (Henry Travers), show him what the world would be like if he had never been born.

The final act is basically reversed spin on A Christmas Carol, but unlike any of the Charles Dickens adaptations, we grow up alongside our central character, we care for him, we relate to him and the thought of him taking the ultimate plunge is unbearable.

Thanks to the layered, emotional story, its predominant flashback structure and the sheer talent of Stewart, unlike many of its peers and imitators, the pay-off at the end is genuinely earned; delivering a sincere, heartfelt message that not only inspires, but draws you to tears.

It’s a mixed bag of emotions – twee as a film could ever possibly be without shying away from the harsh realities of life.

When it comes down to it, IAWL is an unbridled triumph of the human spirit, reminding us of what is really important at this time of year.

Beautifully acted throughout, gorgeously shot, surprising funny, full of charm and endlessly watchable, just ensure you embrace this classic in its original black and white glory, not the bastardised colour version.

Whether or not IAWL is your favourite Christmas film, there’s little denying it’s probably the best.

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