The first film I remember watching that explored the ‘what if?’ theme was ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’
I doubt I need to explain the premise to you, but, just in case you’re that one person who’s never settled down to watch it during the festive season, here goes – it was directed and produced by Frank Capra in 1946, and it’s the story of a man named George Bailey, who is faultlessly played by James Stewart.
George, mistakenly believes he’s led an unimportant existence, and, after a series of ill-fated events, in a moment of absolute despair, considers ending his life. At this point, Clarence the angel arrives, to change his mind. He does this by giving George a glimpse into how the town of Bedford Falls would’ve fared, if George had never existed.
Clarence shows George all the people he cares about and how different their lives would’ve turned out without his input. Not only are the lives of his friends and family poorer without him, but there are also knock on effects.
For example, the part I found most moving was when Clarence takes George to see a row of gravestones. He reminds George that his brother, Harry, performed a heroic act during World War II, which saved many lives and earned him the Medal of Honor. However, because George never existed to save Harry, when, as a child, he fell through the ice, Harry wasn’t there to save the soldiers.
I absolutely couldn’t get that scene out of my head. I remember my dad coming to see why I was crying later that night. There I was in my little top bunk, sobbing for the men whose lives had been lost. I still can’t watch the film without crying, and it remains a firm favourite of mine.
Despite all the tears, it’s an amazing, uplifting movie and one everyone ought to watch at least once. If you ever think that maybe things are a little mundane and you’ve not achieved much in your life so far, stop for a moment and consider all your loved ones, your friends and your colleagues. Then remove yourself from the picture, and see how they’re all getting on without you. There you go!
Since my childhood, I’ve gone on to enjoy films such as Family Man, Sliding Doors, The Butterfly Effect and Back to the Future II. All movies that delve into the what if things had been different? question. I’m fascinated to explore the possibilities of choice.
So, it’s no surprise that when I came to write my second novel, ‘Love Them and Leave Them’ I was thinking about parallel lives. I’d recently read about a woman who’d swerved to avoid a bird in the road and tragically collided with a telegraph pole. Her life was changed in an instant, and I felt terrible for her. I couldn’t help thinking that if I were her, I’d wish I could go back and take the other option and hit the bird. From this thought, a story formed in my head about a man who has to make a similar decision, and the affect both choices would have on his loved ones, in particular, his twenty-something daughter.
Knowing that my first film love was It’s a Wonderful Life, surely, it’s no co-incidence that my debut novel was about guardian angels and my second is a ‘What If?’
Hmmm … it would seem I have much to thank Frank Capra and James Stewart for.
About the author:
Sue Shepherd writes contemporary romance and enjoys creating novels with heart, laughs and naughtiness. She doesn’t pull any punches when choosing her subjects, but manages to handle her characters’ challenging situations with sensitivity and humour.
Her debut novel 'Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret?' was published by Corazon Books in March 2015. It reached the top 10 UK Kindle chart, and also topped the romantic comedy, contemporary romance and humour charts. It became available in paperback on Amazon.UK in November 2015.
Sue’s second novel ‘Love Them and Leave Them’ was published in September 2016.
Sue lives on the picturesque Isle of Wight with her husband, two sons and a standard poodle. Her passions in life are: her family, writing, the sea-side and all the beautiful purple things her sons have bought her over the years. Ask Sue to plan too far in advance and you'll give her the heebie-jeebies and she'd prefer you not to mention Christmas until at least November!