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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student


OPINION: Should movies be more realistic?


The first time I watched the movie “La La Land” when I was 17, I got to the ending and thought, What? That's it? Over the course of two hours, I watched Mia struggle to find a role as an actor, and Sebastian struggle to start up his jazz club. But they found each other along the way — wasn’t that supposed to be the ending? Their dreams didn’t work out, but they had each other, didn’t they? 

Unfortunately, there was no alternate ending hiding in the end credits; Mia and Sebastian really did end up going their own ways. Because of their breakup, Sebastian opened his own jazz club and Mia became a successful actor and started a family. 

Both were ultimately successful and happy where they were. They didn’t have to end up together to be happy; they still loved and appreciated each other from afar.  

And even if I wasn’t happy that they didn’t end up getting married, that was beside the point. Upon further reflection, I realized how realistic and complex of a movie “La La Land” really was. Aside from the occasional fantastical musical scenes, this movie was one of the most accurate depictions of real life that I’d ever seen.  

I understand one of the primary purposes of films is to entertain us and to create new, unique realities that are fun and relaxing to watch. They give us a break from reality, which is oftentimes stressful and heavy. We do need films to be unrealistic at times because they provide an outlet for creativity and new possibilities. 

In fact, professors often teach that films don’t and shouldn’t represent reality too much; if they were to, there wouldn’t be any significant conflict. A film fully based in realism would turn out to be really boring. 

But would it? 

I would argue the opposite. My journalism professors have taught me that the job of journalists — specifically narrative journalists — is to render a felt experience. Every story has an interesting aspect to it: even though we may seem like boring creatures, we’re really not. We experience so many complex, intricate emotions that may not appear at the surface;, but asking even only a few questions will lead us to things that ultimately blow our minds, make us cry or stop and think. There is conflict in every story: every person we encounter, from a high school student deciding their future after graduation, to a soccer player losing the most important game of their career. 

Even if we may not realize it, we are inherently fascinated by each other; we yearn to understand each other more. Narrative journalism gives us a way to connect with those around us and those halfway across the world. We don’t even have to live where the subject at hand lives to be able to relate to their story in some way and want to learn more. 

So, what if more films were to depict narrative stories written by real journalists? That wouldn’t be boring — it would provide depth to things happening to people right in front of us. Highlighting realities would make us more aware of the different types of people and lifestyles there are, as well as balance our expectations. We would see real-life conflict play out right in front of us, and if even if we don’t fully accept that conflict, we would at least recognize that conflict exists outside of fictional worlds. 

Yes, it’s okay to binge rom-coms and thrillers, but eventually, if we don’t see what real life will give us, we’ll be disappointed. We'll be more disappointed when the detective doesn’t catch the killer, and we’ll be more disappointed when love doesn’t always work out. Films shouldn’t just entertain us — they should try to teach us and prepare us for real life. 

It took me a while to fully appreciate “La La Land” for the movie it was. Even if I’d already known before watching the film that real life wasn’t perfect, seeing undramatized things happen in the movie pushed me to think more about how valuable and beautiful life really is as an imperfect identity. Making more films to reflect true human experiences will allow us to cultivate that appreciation and become more aware of who we truly are. 


Isabella Vesperini (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and minoring in Italian. 

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