La La Land (2016) – Review

La La Land is the story of two ambitious young people in Los Angeles, a classic premise as far as cinema is concerned. The film follows Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress working as a barista, as she meets and begins a relationship with Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist who wants more than anything to open his own jazz club. John Legend plays a supporting role as Keith, though surprisingly adds little musically, aside from one modern jazz performance.

Split into four seasonal-themed acts as the film progresses through the stages of Mia and Sebastian’s relationship, the audience is bounced from set piece to set piece, each as unique and original as the last, though they draw inspiration heavily from classic cinema and theatre.

And I really do mean bounce. This is a film that doesn’t let up; it allows for quiet, still moments but for the most part relies on a constantly moving camera and physical theatre.¬†Cinematography is a highlight for La La Land, with moments that made my jaw drop thanks to stunning colour and framing. The audience is truly taken for a ride, and each setting and backdrop is meticulously vibrant and full.

The relationship between the two main characters feels refreshingly real and grounded.
The relationship between the two main characters feels refreshingly real and grounded.

Primarily, La La Land is a musical and, while I didn’t find myself coming out of the cinema with a tune stuck in my head, each number was exquisitely orchestrated and layered with emotional weight. From a starlit walk along a road overlooking the city, with a surprising tap dancing routine, to an intimate serenade at the piano in the living room, each song welcomes you into the moment to share an emotional journey with the two lead characters.

La La Land is one of the best films I have seen in a long time, one that utterly swept me off my feet with its emotional weight and beauty. Along with a soundtrack that I will happily listen to on its own, and gorgeous scene after gorgeous scene, this is a must-see.

Grade: A+

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