SHARE

During an audition, aspiring actress Mia recalls her aunt dancing in the frigid waters of the Seine for no other reason than to expe­rience the potent medley of water and snow. She had a cold for the next month, but, she told her niece, it was worth repeating. The movie “La La Land” is much like the story told by its leading lady: a pas­sionate explo­ration of the choice to par­tic­ipate absurdly in life for the sake of the expe­rience.

When Mia (Emma Stone) meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), she’s a barista and aspiring actress, and he’s a part-time pianist with dreams of opening a jazz club. Their rela­tionship, ini­tially chal­lenged by her hatred for jazz and his surly dis­po­sition, develops slowly but becomes essential to their growth as indi­viduals and as artists.

The movie, while not exactly a classic, com­bines the star-crossed melan­choly of “Casablanca” with the old-fash­ioned charisma of “Singing in the Rain.”

Whenever the leading char­acters become dis­heartened, they encourage each other to follow their respective dreams. Sebastian advises Mia to create a one-woman show because he sees her talent when no one else does. And Mia believes that he will open his own jazz club someday even when he gives up the dream himself.

The melan­choly comes in the end — don’t read on if you mind spoilers — when Mia and Sebastian choose their respective dreams over their rela­tionship with each other.

But despite the ending, the story has a more hopeful message than if they had ended up together. A happily ever after is not some­thing that all of us have expe­ri­enced, but most of us have been in rela­tion­ships that ended. So the movie res­onates with anyone who’s ever lost a friend or lover: the rela­tionship is beau­tiful, but so is moving on.

The movie embodies the spirit of its main char­acters in all the best ways. It’s ide­al­istic like Mia. It feels like as much of an old soul as Sebastian. And it invites the viewer to see their rela­tionship as they come to see it: worth­while even when it ended.

Choosing between a love and fol­lowing your dream is not always nec­essary, but the movie reminds us that we have the choice to do either, and the con­se­quences of our choices are not neither as per­manent nor as unkind as they seem.

Mia and Sebastian learn to appre­ciate a moment rather than antic­ipate its outcome; the result of the decision, it seems to say, matters less than what happens on the way there.

“La La Land” is a movie about finding the pos­itive in sad sit­u­a­tions. The movie takes a while to ger­minate. You might not appre­ciate it at first. Watching the movie is almost like going through a breakup of your own: it hurts at first, but soon enough you can look back and see every­thing that was won­derful without feeling the pain.

In the end, the image that will stick in your head is not that of the couple going their sep­arate ways, but that of Mia and Sebastian dancing together, unmindful of crowds or con­se­quences.