La La Land’s Ending- Yay or Nay?


Directed by Damien Chazelle, La La Land follows two hopefuls in LA and their doomed romance. Mia (Emma Stone) constantly has her dreams of becoming an actress dashed by apathetic casting directors and lazy roles, while Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a skilled pianist and Jazz enthusiast. The films follows their love story alongside their aspirations in the city of dreams. However, while the film ends with both achieving career success – Mia has become a full-blown star and Sebastian has opened a Jazz bar – they break up, with Mia having a family of her own now. The film ends with her visiting ‘Seb’s’ bar, her and Sebastian sharing a loving stare, and Mia leaving. Many have found this ending devastating and some even dislike it – why couldn’t they have ended up together too?

Observations on film art : How LA LA LAND is made

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However, I think this ending is what propels La La Land from just a commemoration of old Hollywood musicals to its own masterpiece. The entire ending sequence, detailing with all manner of artistic and colourful cinematography of what could have been with Mia and Sebastian, is only fitting for an Old Hollywood dream. This ending swiftly grounds us to reality. The colourful sets, the theatrical surroundings and old-fashioned recordings during the sequence reinforces that to end any other way would be to ignore how some relationships really work.

Films, especially Old Hollywood films (as well as many romances we see today) are insistent upon finding ‘the one’. Once you have found them, everything is portrayed to be perfectly slotted into place – a happily ever after with this person. However, no matter the person, timing is important. Mia and Sebastian did not move to LA to find love, they went to achieve their dreams. The dream sequence reveals that had Sebastian and Mia stayed together, Sebastian would not have owned the Jazz bar, and would still be appreciating other people’s work from afar with no opportunity for his time in the spotlight. By breaking up when they did, both were able to be free to focus on their dreams. While it may not be the happy romantic ending people desired, it is certainly a happy ending regarding all the ups and downs we witness from the both of them as they try to reach success.

La La Land’s ending is still bittersweet for many, and it is certainly played that way. The love they share for each other is palpable right up until the end credits. However, break ups don’t have to end in hatred. Sometimes, ‘the one’ is simply not an option due to the timing, and that isn’t to say another ‘the one’ won’t appear again. Instead of regarding that last look of love as a tragedy and a relationship lost, it is much sweeter to view it as a love that will stay forever, a mutual look of respect as they know that they couldn’t have gotten to where they are without each other.


About Author

2nd year English and Film minor student and Film Sub-Editor 2020/21. Loves the cinema, hates the people.

1 Comment

  1. It has the exact same ending as les parapluies de cherbourg. The bittersweet ending (really more bitter) has been done so much that it’s the expected ending at this point and has become trite. The characters grew up a bit together and supported each other as they were able to at any point. That support grew as they matured. It would have made sense for Seb to follow Mia to Paris and enjoy the Jazz scene there as depicted in the alternate timeline. It’s implied that he supported her in developing the one person play so if she hit it big, it would only be fair for her to support him with his jazz club after the Paris movie. This is one of those times that the happy alternate ending would have actually been the more artistically meaningful one, not just the more satisfying one. Furthermore, the movie could have unfolded just as it did, showing the sequence of them not ending up together and her getting married and coming to the club, but when the alternate timeline of them ending up together was shown it could have been indicated that this “happy” ending was actually what really happened and the parting timeline was just a sad “what if”. That would have been a fun ride for the last 1/4 of the film that honors their growth together and could be justified from the fantasy elements in the rest of the film. You’d also still get the emotional power of the “not ending up together” ending without the bitter aftertaste of realizing that there was no reason for it.

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