It Was a Wonderful Life (1993)

 |  Documentary
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.9/10 from 118 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 1 critic

Feature-length documentary deals with homeless women, once secure in their middle-class status, who through divorce, misfortune, or circumstances were reduced to living on the street.


(as Michele Ohayon)
0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Chaplin (1992)
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A film about the troubled and controversial life of the master comedy filmmaker Charles Chaplin.

Director: Richard Attenborough
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Geraldine Chaplin, Paul Rhys
The Soloist (2009)
Biography | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A Los Angeles journalist befriends a homeless Juilliard-trained musician, while looking for a new article for the paper.

Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A poor Midwest family is forced off of their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.

Director: John Ford
Stars: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine
Headhunters (2011)
Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

An accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary.

Director: Morten Tyldum
Stars: Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

When an open-minded Jewish librarian and his son become victims of the Holocaust, he uses a perfect mixture of will, humor and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp.

Director: Roberto Benigni
Stars: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.

Director: Elia Kazan
Stars: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam war impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.

Director: Michael Cimino
Stars: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale
A Wonderful Life (TV Movie 1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  

The Life and work of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Director: Christopher Sykes
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Director: Christian Rischert
Stars: Iris Gras, Axel Regnier, Carl-Heinz Schroth
It Happened One Christmas (TV Movie 1977)
Comedy | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

It's Christmas Eve 1944 in the small town of Bedford Falls, New York. A despondent and suicidal Mary Bailey Hatch is praying for guidance on what to do about an incident no fault of her own... See full summary »

Director: Donald Wrye
Stars: Marlo Thomas, Orson Welles, Wayne Rogers


Credited cast:
Herself / Narrator (voice)
Lou Hall ...
Herself (as Lou)
Reena Sands ...
Herself (Ronella) (as Reena [Ronella])
Josephine ...
Marie ...
Terry ...
Alice ...
Marjorie Bard ...
Herself - Author, "Shadow Women" (as Dr. Marjorie Bard)
Jeanette Goldberg ...
Herself (as Jeanette)
Steve Renehan ...
Himself: City of Los Angeles Housing Authority
Gordon Tuthill ...
Himself: Apartment Building Owner
Wayne Doss ...
Himself: Director of Child Support Operations, L.A. County, District Attorney's Office
Dennis Cohen ...
Himself: Center for Enforcement of Family Support
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Linda Hernandez ...
Herself: Parking Enforcement, City of Santa Monica


Feature-length documentary deals with homeless women, once secure in their middle-class status, who through divorce, misfortune, or circumstances were reduced to living on the street.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



See  »

Did You Know?


[first lines]
Title Card: Thousands of homeless people in the United States are hidden and go unrecognized as homeless. The majority of them are women.
Title Card: This film is dedicated to the "Hidden Homeless" women who came forward to tell their stories and allowed us into their lives.
See more »


Courtesy of Octave Music Publishing Corporation
Limerick Music Corporation
Timo Co. Music
Reganesque Music Co.
Composed by Erroll Garner
Lyrics by Johnny Burke
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Very powerful
12 March 2004 | by (Chapel Hill, NC, USA) – See all my reviews

An excellent documentary; this struck a chord with me.

I live in the most expensive city in my state, an affluent left-leaning college town. There's much more education than jobs in the area (varied things, like an abundance of culture or the quality of the local schools, keep some in the area), and the homeless population is quite noticeable for a town of 50,000. I - and many people I know - are college-educated folks with reasonable-to-occasionally impressive resumes, who are working retail or waiting tables. We're a paycheck or an illness or an accident away from being where the folks in this documentary are.

IT WAS A WONDERFUL LIFE is remarkably well-made, with subtle cinematography that serves its' subjects well - no great art statements made visually, but this documentary doesn't need it. Instead, it unobtrusively gives the women who appear onscreen space to tell their stories - how they all ended up homeless. These women are educated, have experienced professional success and some semblance of security at some point, and are mostly descended from middle-class (or better) backgrounds. Their determination and self-awareness is striking, though - given the depressing familiarity of an ever-more-diverse homeless population - I wasn't as shocked as I felt that I should be.

Certain issues - depression, the common refuge of chemical dependance, the ever-present threats of violence - could've been dealt with in greater depth. Several themes are well-explored here however - if a viewer wasn't aware already that education, self-awareness, a ferocious work ethic and/or psychological toughness don't mean jack in and of themselves, it will be abundantly clear by the films' end. Morally, any individual (single, married, or otherwise) should - by this late date - know that depending on anyone else for security and survival is precarious even with a fat bank account, and potentially suicidal without. One woman (a law student) sums it all up effectively: "Never trust anyone. Especially a lawyer." This film visualizes all of the above in horrifying detail.

Equally disturbing is the revelation (from several of these women) that they never thought about homelessness until they became homeless. This info is rather casually offered; they don't exclude themselves from any of social apathy that is occasionally on display in IT WAS A WONDERFUL LIFE. They had it good until a bad investment, a lost lawsuit or a husband walked out (stiffing them for child support - the grueling fallout of this is shown in great, horrifying detail); one never views this as a problem deserving of thought and action until one has to move into their car, and then the true magnitude of how few safety nets exist (or function properly) becomes abundantly clear.

The women in this documentary impressed me - being homeless (or simply being poor) is an art, and it's a lot of work - this too becomes quite clear here. If there's an ulterior agenda, it should be noted that the women here defy most stereotypes of homelessness, personalizing the issue in terms that any cul-de-sac dweller would easily comprehend. These aren't the kind of cartoon down-and-outers easily written off by politicos, 'pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps' types, suburbanites, or any of us with an education and a resume (and the expectation of upward mobility and security) - the faces seen here look like people you know and love.

Which - in some ways - is the lone serious oversight here - the issue could've been brought home (in wrenching fashion) has the director included some individuals who were at another level of 'lost' - addicted, or mentally ill, and completely abandoned by the system (or who had dealt with bureaucracies and agencies, only to lose hope in absolute frustration). While such a film would be tough to watch, it would also be essential in understanding a problem that shouldn't exist.

As it is, IT WAS A WONDERFUL LIFE is a very powerful, moving document - gripping and informative - and I recommend it strongly.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss It Was a Wonderful Life (1993) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: