"It's a Wonderful Life" needs another five star review like it needs more charismatic actors. So this is aimed at anyone who suspects that it's a movie that will drench them in saccharine sentimentality.
True, that great optimist of film-making, Mr Frank Capra, directed it. But there's never anything easy about making a film where the central character is seriously considering suicide, and then having to offer hope to boot.
The suicidal character in question is George Bailey (James Stewart), a good man who considers himself cheated out of the life he could have had. As one might hope in such a situation, an angel (Henry Travers) is hurriedly dispatched from heaven to intervene. Sporting the name of Clarence, this elderly chap offers George the opportunity to see what life would have been like had he not lived.
As it turns out, the world would have been a poorer place without him. But this is not just a succession of examples proving what a fine man George is. There's never any hiding the fact that he grows increasingly frustrated by being stuck in the little town of Bedford Falls. As his opportunities fade, his bitterness and resentment grows.
There's little room for sugary sweet answers to a near plausible life of decency that appears to end in failure. "It's a Wonderful Life" achieves a fine balancing act between pathos and feel-good that is delivered by an outstanding cast. Even the minor parts are populated by some of the finest character actors and it produces a movie of timeless quality and relevance.