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La La Land (12A 2016)

Running time: 128 minutes
Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Director Damien Chazelle

There is something wonderful about the sheer scale and exuberance of this film’s opening scene, which is a spectacular song and dance routine that takes the breath away. It continues at a high tempo throughout; a cross between a Gene Kelly-type musical and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. I guess this is what you might call a feel-good film; singing, dancing and romance.

La La Land is the story of two young people in Los Angeles, one an aspiring actress, the other a wannabe jazz pianist. The two meet and their stories, dreams and aspirations mingle throughout the film. Yet if this film is a little like Gene Kelly, it is because often the couple are metaphorically, singing in the rain!

The film is honest about how our dreams do not always work out as we hope or expect. Most of life has more than its share of setbacks, knockbacks and disappointment. Creative people learn that progress can involve perspiration and inspiration in equal measures – when anybody makes it in life it is usually the result of hard work and delayed gratification. Dreams must be reshaped as aspirations meet reality, comprises are made, as we learn to live with a revised version of that dream.

We see all of this in La La Land, yet the enduring feature of the film is how the two main characters played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone find joy in a series of moments shared together. It is a reminder that as the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us: “God makes everything beautiful in its time”. The film also reminds us how valuable it is to have honest friends, who can get us back on track when we are about to give up.

Who might enjoy this film? The audience when I went was 80% female but it is not a chick flick. This man, for one, found the whole film enthralling. It reminds us that it is OK to have fun, to dream dreams and to follow your heart. Christians would want to add that our heart’s focus needs to be refined by our love for God and others.

I said that I loved the opening scene; well the final scene is equally brilliant for another reason. It sums up skilfully the complex ambiguous web of human life, loves and dreams. One last thing: you might want some tissues!

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle

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