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I'm kinda afraid of what I'm gonna say in a review like this. It feels a little bit like writing a love letter: there's little chance that I could possibly put into words why I like this movie so much and at the same time, there's a huge chance I come off sounding stupid and incoherent. So why bother? Honestly, I don't even know myself. But... oh well, here goes.
Art, as a general whole, tends to strive to show the human condition. To me, that seems to be a rule that carries through to all of the artistic mediums: movies, music, what have you. In particular, movies tend to show you a story, and the story has a morale that highlights a certain condition of being human. Then we can all relate to it, and if even we don't, we can still get something out of the experience, knowing that whatever was shown was very much a part of being a human being. And thus we're further enlightened.
That's one of the things that sets this movie apart. Other movies use stories, and at times, it feels very very apparent that you're watching a story unfold. That's not the case here. This movie is unique; it doesn't feel like a pre-written story at all. It feels as if we're placed smack dab in the middle of the lives of two very common people with very common problems. At no point in this movie does it feel like we're watching a pre-written story being acted out. Instead, we're simply experiencing life, as must be experienced by millions of people on this planet, by following these two people.
It's this uniqueness which sets this movie apart. Since it never feels like a "story", we approach it like we would approach things that happen in real life. You sympathize with both the characters of Charlotte and Bob. Even when certain things aren't said, you can tell what they're thinking, as if you were watching these events unfold with real people you knew in front of your eyes. You know why Bob is attracted to Charlotte, and vice versa. You know what they're thinking, and how they must be feeling. This goes on from scene to scene, and you see the gradual transformation, maturation and growth of each character. This creates a sense of connection that you simply can't feel if this movie was done any other way, because it personally feels like the life experience we've gone through ourselves.
By seeing everything in this manner do all the themes pop out at you. And wow, there are a lot of them: Everyone is confused about life. Everyone is unsure about growing up. Everyone is unsure of how content they really are about the way their lives have turned out. Life always feels a little odd as we proceed in it, as if we've been displaced from our native countries (by the way, that's a damn awesome metaphor).
I'm an Asian-American college kid from Southern California. Yet, the humanity shown in this movie was so universal that I could relate to two white Americans' experiences in Tokyo.
And that's where the appeal of this movie lies: we're all human, and we're all going through this funny little thing called life. It'd be nice to have a translation to it, but that Rosetta Stone probably won't be discovered. All of this, everything shown in this movie... this is exactly what being a human being is about.
Fueled by the brilliance of Jimmy Stewart, this movie simply shines. It's a realistic movie that deals with a lot of everyday life ordeals that anyone who's ever lived can relate to. It follows the admirable life of George Bailey (portrayed beautifully by Jimmy Stewart), and through his eyes, we see the beauty of dreaming and hoping, the pain of having lose his dreams to fit into his place in the real world, the pain of his self-sacrificing, and the importance of clinging to his ideals. Although it seems like we should be crushed by Bailey's ordeals and situations, we find that we eventually see the beauty of life, and why it's exactly "a wonderful life."
Possibly the most heartwarming movie ever. Pop it in every Christmas, because this one's perfect, and is considered a classic for good reason.