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?
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.