Friday, December 19, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life

I watch this movie every Christmas, sometimes twice. I remember when TNT used to show it every day for the two weeks leading up to Christmas. The first time I saw it all the way through was the Christmas after my sister died. I was staying at my then boyfriend's house. The emotion of it didn't hit me then. I think I was either too cynical or too focused on just the relationship between George and Mary.

Now I can't watch it without crying. Even though I know what happens.

I share the views of this article, which explains that George's life isn't all that wonderful. It's confining and dull, full of those horrible adult responsibilities we all wish we could dispense with in favor of travel and other recreational activities. I've always seen Mr. Geeky in George. The oldest kid, who put off college while his younger brother went immediately after high school. While Mr. Geeky stuck nearby his home town throughout grad school, his brother went off to med school, internship and residency. Now, of course, the tables are turned and Mr. Geeky lives far away in the big city while his brother returned to his home town.

As I get older, I feel the sense of letting go of earlier dreams from my youth. There are certain things that will never happen. And what I get from the movie is the grieving process of that. There's the denial, pain, anger, depression and loneliness (near suicide in the film), and then the post-angel part of the film is the upward swing toward acceptance, ending in the hopeful message that "No man is poor who has friends."

I think what's moving about the film, then, is that I go through all of that with George. Every year, I am reminded of what's really important and quit comparing myself to the Sam Wainwrights of the world. It's a moment of realizing my own shallowness and then letting that shallowness go. The emotion of that and the suddenness of it would make anyone cry.