Jordan Williams’s review published on Letterboxd:
This movie amazes me every time I see it. It's not without its flaws, but it has just about everything I want in a rewatchable, touching, well-made film. It just makes me feel warm inside whenever I watch it.
Instead of finding something new to say about it, here's the essay I wrote on it for an internship prompt a few years ago(it was for the WA State legislature internship so it's a little focused towards that):
As I look back on the many films that have impacted me throughout my twenty years, the one whose influence stands out above all others is Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Though it began as a simple holiday tradition, as I grew older and paid closer attention to the film, I began to truly understand the story and appreciate the motifs of family, gratitude, acceptance, and selflessness. Instead of just comforting holiday entertainment, It’s a Wonderful Life became a year-round source of solace in times of questioning and the need to restore my faith in humanity and my life’s purpose.
Our worth isn’t defined by the amount of money we make or the car we drive, it’s defined by our interactions and relationships with others, our sincerity, and our ability for forgiveness and acceptance. Even more, we must be able to appreciate our lives and count everything we are thankful for instead of dwelling on what we don’t have. Unlike George, we don’t need a guardian angel to enlighten us to appreciate our lives and our meanings within them. We can look to our family members, our friends, our coworkers, the cashiers at our grocery stores, our law enforcement, our elected officials, our teachers, etc. to know that we are all connected and have meaning within not only our smaller communities, but the world. We don’t need to be the president of a company or the United States to make a difference to others. We’re meant to make the most of our lives, but sometimes we become so wrapped up in our goals that we forget the good we already have. The film taught me that we will have many failures in our lives and will at times be our own biggest enemies, but that it’s necessary to appreciate the life we have while continuing to improve.
The film has also influenced me to be as selfless as I can and continue to uplift those around me even when it’s hard. When George can’t fight in the war because of his bad ear, he chooses not to sulk or project jealousy onto his friends and family members who see to glory in the war. Instead, he helps the efforts at home by being an air raid officer and boasts the accomplishments and celebrations of his younger brother. Even when he faces many hard breaks such as his inability to travel or go to college due to his father’s untimely death and selflessly staying home to take over the company, George does not blame others. He takes his duty to family even further by using his own tuition money to send his younger brother off to college for four years while he stays home instead. Though George looks around seeing what others have that he does not and reflects on these missed opportunities for himself as failures, he is blind to the plentiful successes he has through his duty and selflessness to others. The film taught me that many times, our greatest successes are those that don’t involve money or titles, but are shown in our friendships and the sacrifices we make for those we love.
As the classic line in It’s a Wonderful Life says, one who has friends is never a failure. In taking this quote to heart, I have worked to continually make the most of my friendships and interactions with others. I act as selflessly as I can, making sure to uplift my family by blood and those who have become family through the love that has been fostered throughout my life. Looking around my world, I see the lives I have touched and those that have touched mine, and vow to never take them for granted or let them go unappreciated.