So, finally, I watched La La Land this summer. Actually, I watched it twice, because I figured, Why not watch this amazing movie a second time before taking it back to the library? I called this the "Cultural Enrichment" segment of my toddler's education. I have been aching to discuss La La Land here on the blog, and I finally have a moment to do so. There are many different topics we could discuss regarding this movie's depiction of people aspiring for their dreams in Los Angeles (here's one awesome article that I loved). As I think about the different deep themes I want to delve into, I keep going back to conclusion of this movie. So today, we're going to talk about the ending of La La Land (this is a warning to skip over this post if you don't want the ending spoiled).
We spend the majority of La La Land focused intently on Sebastian and Mia. We see them meet each other-in a traffic jam, at a club, at a party. We see them becoming friends and lovers. We watch them dance and sing their way through the seasons as they work to achieve their dreams in the city of Los Angeles. Eventually, we see that Mia's dream is pulling her apart from Sebastian. Her great desire is to become an actress, and when she is offered an acting job that will take her to Paris, she and Seb put their relationship on hold. It is relegated to the "We'll just have to wait and see what happens" category. The story could have ended here: We see Mia achieving her dream of becoming an actress, and while she and Seb aren't together anymore, there is still the hope that somehow, someway, Mia and Seb will reunite. And when the words, "Five years later" crossed the screen after this scene, I thought that this was the ending we were going to get. I figured that we were going to see a rosy, Hollywood-style "happily ever after" where Seb and Mia fall into each other's arms in an epic musical number.
And we did see a happy ending-it just wasn't all bubbles and rainbows. When I saw that Mia had achieved her dream of becoming a successful actress, I was delighted-and then I saw that she was married with a child. What???? But what about Seb???? I wanted to scream at the screen. We see Mia and her husband go on a date and wind up in Seb's club. And we see a montage of what could have been. As I watched this montage of Seb and Mia, happily together, I kept thinking, Please let this be the actual reality-perhaps the rest of the movie is a weird alternate reality that never actually took place! But then I saw the camera center back in on Mia and her husband, and I realized that this was the reality. Initially, I was upset. I couldn't stop
When the story picks up "five years later," we see that Mia is married. She is living out her vocation as a wife, her role as a mother, and her job as an actress. She seems pretty satisfied, too-we see her fondly kiss her husband and happily play with her child. She made a choice in her life, and she seems to be fairly content. Later on, Mia makes another choice. She and her husband listen to Seb at his club, and she thinks about what could have been if she and Seb had stayed together. But instead of ditching her husband and running back to Seb with open arms, Mia chooses her marriage. She leaves the club with her husband to go back to their life and child.
And she seems content. She has a husband who loves her and a child who adores her. As Mia leaves the club, she shares a knowing smile with Seb-acknowledging their shared history-but she leaves with her husband. She sacrifices the chance to fulfill any lingering desire that she may have for Seb in order to live out her vocation of marriage. In order to achieve their dreams, Seb and Mia needed to make decisions. They had to say "yes" to some things and "no" to other things. While they could have said "yes" to each other, they didn't-and that's okay.
One of my good friends pointed out to me that this movie also makes a great comment about "soulmates," and I agree.
I believe that "soulmates" are a myth (Fr. Mike Schmitz has a great video on this); there isn't one person that we are supposed to marry, and if we don't marry that person we've blown it. Love is a decision and marriage is a choice that individuals make daily through their sacrifices. Seb and Mia could have chose each other, but they chose other paths.
As I mull over the ending of La La Land, I realize how much it reminds me of a book that I recently read. Travelers Along the Way: The Men and Women Who Shaped My Life, written by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, recounts the stories of people he encountered throughout his journey on Earth. Some of these individuals he knew quite well; others he only knew in passing for a short period of time. Yet all of these men and women impacted him. Seb and Mia were "travelers along the way." Their paths intersected for a time, and they changed each other's lives. Producer Fred Berger notes that Seb and Mia are better for having known each other. They helped each other through a critical moment in their lives, and they moved on.
The ending of La La Land reminds us that marriage is not a once-and-done decision that we made when we said our vows. We need to continually sacrifice and choose to put our vocations first. The pathway of living our vocations is not rosy and carefree; instead, our journey is that of embracing our crosses daily. We have to make sacrifices as we constantly choose to live out our vocations. This can be painful and difficult at times, but it is always worth it.