La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-winning musical, has just dropped on Netflix – here’s a breakdown of the ending and meaning of Mia and Sebastian’s montage.
La La Land is the second movie from Chazelle, the director behind Whiplash, First Man, and Babylon, the latter of which hit cinemas earlier this month and has been trending on social media since arriving on VOD.
It follows Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress in Los Angeles, who meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a passionate jazz musician. The pair fall for each other, but will the City of Stars let them be?
In the end, they’re the fools who dream – but it comes with a heartbreaking price, so here’s a rundown of everything that happens at the end of the movie.
La La Land ending explained
After Mia comes out of her audition, she asks Seb: “Where are we, what do we do?” Seb replies: “When you get this, you gotta give it everything you’ve got. It’s your dream.”
They agree to go their separate ways and chase their own dreams; Mia will go to Paris and become a successful actress, and Seb will stay in L.A. and do his own thing. “I guess we’re just gonna have to wait and see,” he says.
“I’m always gonna love you,” she tells him. “I’m always gonna love you too,” he responds. Five years later, both of them are living the life they always wanted, just without each other: Mia is a world-famous star, and Seb has his own jazz club.
One night, Mia and her husband go for a night out in the city and stumble into a club. On the way in, she notices the logo she once designed for Seb, and realizes where they actually are. She’s immediately anxious to see him, all while her husband soaks in the atmosphere.
Seb steps onstage and introduces the band, but he’s brought to a halt by the sight of Mia in the crowd. “Welcome to Seb’s,” he says, softly, as he sits down and takes a long moment to compose himself. Mia sits there, on the verge of tears, as he begins playing their song.
Suddenly, they’re transported back to the restaurant Seb once played in, where he once barged past Mia. Instead, they kiss, kicking off a song-and-dance sequence of the perfect version of their lives together: Mia becomes an actress, Seb turns down Keith (John Legend) and plays at a jazz club in Paris, they have a child together, get married, and end up in the same jazz bar.
Of course, it’s all just a fantasy. As Seb plays his final notes, the crowd erupts in applause – but Mia sits completely still, devastated by the performance. They decide to leave, but Mia stops at the door and turns back. She locks eyes with Seb, but the sadness fizzles away with a smile. She walks away, and Seb continues playing.
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What does the montage mean?
The whole montage with Mia and Sebastian is the “what if” version of their lives. They fell in love, and still feel the same way about each other – but they were simply not meant to be, except for in their dreams.
The cost of their success was their relationship, but that love never burned out – just as Rick told Ilsa, “We’ll always have Paris”, Mia and Seb’s memories will stay with them.
It’s also worth noting, Seb doesn’t get his jazz club in the montage. He plays at another club in Paris, but he doesn’t open Seb’s in L.A. – even if they got their “happily ever after”, there wasn’t room for everything to go their way.
In an interview with CNN, Chazelle said: “I think there’s a reason why most of the greatest love stories in history don’t end with happily ever after.
“To me, if you’re telling a story about love, love has to be bigger than the characters… [The ending gives] you that sense that even if the relationship itself might be over in practical terms, the love is not over. The love lasts, and I think that’s just a beautiful kind of thing.”
It’s a tear-jerking happy ending; they may not end up together, but they’re ultimately happy where they are.
La La Land is available to stream on Netflix now. You can find out how to watch Babylon here.