Over the past few years during the Christmas season, specifically the days between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day I've noticed how receptive I am to film. I can't really account for it other than I know in this demanding and volatile emotional period I find myself on the couch with the remote in my hand looking to decompress from the interpersonal intensity of the festive marathon. I'm usually congratulating some nameless individual (the programmer) for their excellent choices. This year, for instance, I fell into a grateful trance watching The Godfather I, II and III over three nights muttering "Genius!" to myself. Is there another series of films more perfect at expressing the wiggy dimensions of family life – its pleasures, obligations and horrors – than this classic trio from America? When I studied Cinema at university in the mid 1990s Francis Ford Coppola was considered a giant who had lost his touch. No one could take the 1970s away from him but, prevailing opinion held that his later films were not as successful. While Martin Scorcese was moving onto Raging Bull and Age of Innocence Coppola was making strange episodes for television and ordinary children's films (The Black Stallion, anyone?). When The Godfather III was released in 1990 – the only one I saw in the theatres – I remember being disappointed by its flatness. Revisiting it, I was more forgiving. Here is a film preoccupied with regret, legacy and wealth (most likely mirroring Coppola's own life-stage dilemmas) and not the aggressive, energetic turf wars of two decades earlier. I found it closer in theme and texture to Wall Street and Pretty Woman in its reckoning with material excess. Sure, The Godfather III doesn't come close to the inventive and elegiac tone of its predecessors. The straight, steely first instalment with its superb cinematography framing actors on a horizontal or vertical plane and Coppola's use of props; a lighter, a bag of oranges, to intimate psychology or as metaphor – and its ambitious, heartbreaking sequel from 1974. I was in awe of Coppola's nerve watching The Godfather II especially the set pieces with a cast of thousands, the film's slightly hysterical atmosphere and marvellous casting. Three short years later Coppola would make Apocalypse Now. Like I said, a giant.