Redefining Happily Ever After

[SPOILERS for La La Land ahead for those who have not watched the movie]

La La Land had two of my favourite elements about a movie: The remembrance of things past and the indiscriminate bursts of song and dance. But this is not why I loved the movie. I loved La La Land because it overthrows the age-old notion of boy-meets-girl happily-ever-after.

The movie was a welcome piece of escapism and examines two daydreaming artists in their pursuit of outlandish and seemingly impossible dreams. If you were to watch the movie from a typical Hollywood lens, you would suspect the essential characters (Mia and Sebastian) to achieve their dreams and drive into the sunset and live happily ever after.

However, this film discards the idea that the two lovers (at the center of the movie) must stay together for the ending to be considered happy. It is easy to see this ending as sad and regretful, which is the immediate reaction most of us will tend to have.

They achieve their dream but their relationship has been lost. To those of you lucky enough to have this choice, should love ever be sacrificed for ambition? We have been made to believe that people should value love over their own personal ambition. That this is the only way to live a fulfilling life.

The movie suggests that whenever a ‘Chase-your-dream’ creed is concerned, grit and an uncompromising approach are compulsory – they also imply there’s something incompatible about lasting relationships and professional success. While this might not be 100% true for everyone, I know what single-minded creative ambition does to your capacity to succeed… and also to your romantic ties. Whenever we find happiness from professional fulfilment, we have been made to question whether we have simply accepted compromise that came calling to fill our pockets, but not our hearts.

But of course, the line between success and selfishness is also blurry, partly because to fulfill your ambition, you need to value your career and passions over other people.

Rather than having the two compromising in their relationship and reaching a lukewarm medium – the message at the heart of the film is that sometimes compromise means walking away from something for each person’s benefit. Overall in the end, each person gets what they want. While they are no longer together, the knowing smiles they give one another is an indication that each is finally content and they are grateful for the other for the time they shared.

The real romance was with the shimmer of dreams – which considering the heighten realism of the film is a surprisingly mature and unexpected message. And although we don’t live in a world where we solve our biggest problems by rampaging into song and dance – I loved the film for its uncomfortable insight, which is that the drive for professional success is, for young people at the present time, both more realistic and more romantic than the pursuit of boy-meets-girl happily-ever-after.

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