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2017 Book 7: Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

 

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Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited is a narrative story told from the perspective of one Charles Ryder, an agnostic young man who becomes friends with Sebastian Flyte, a cradle Catholic who struggles with his faith. Charles is quite taken with the members and dynamics of the Flyte Family, (a family of Catholic’s living in 1920s Protestant England) and each of them have their own particular relationship with him. A family torn between a pious mother and a rogue father, each of the four siblings has his/her own struggles. Two are committed Catholics. Two are confused, lost, and somewhat repelled by their faith. Charles witnesses the lives of these different characters as they live out the consequences of their decisions, some outwardly suffering but inwardly excelling in virtue and holiness, others materially excelling but inwardly suffering as they ignore and have anger towards their faith.

Charles himself develops an animosity towards the Catholic faith through the years of knowing the Flyte family. But during WWII, he is brought back to the family estate and as he reflects on his life’s entwinement with this family, he slowly realizes the purpose, the point, the whole mystery of the Catholic faith.

This whole story was a very real example of family circumstances regarding the faith. The mother, a cradle catholic, is a pious soul, whose intuition and ability to communicate do her service in managing and dealing with those she loves. The father, a lapsed convert, is living abroad with his mistress and holds hostile resentment towards his wife. The eldest son is a committed catholic, and goes about his staunch but slightly odd way, never outwardly reprimanding his lapsed siblings but calling things as they are, and not pretending they are otherwise. The elder sister defies her mother and religion by marrying a protestant for his social position, leading her down a path of hardship and saddness. Sebastian feels he can never quite aspire to be the good man he should be, always having an under-lying suspicion that he is too much like his father, and falls into a habit of drunkenness at a young age. The youngest daughter is a pious thing, and although she does not live the life she thought she would, she grows in piety and holiness the older she gets.

Waugh writes about living the catholic faith with such reality. The temptations and struggles each character deals with are very apparent in our day-and-age. The father’s decisions and life choices also affect the children and the struggles they have later in life. This is something I often ponder – generational sin and how our spiritual lives will affect the spiritual lives of those who come after us, just as our spiritual lives are affected by our ancestors. (Generational sin – there are excellent sermon’s online about it). Just as the mother’s piety affects those of her children who are inclined towards that, so the father’s various sins affect those of his children also inclined to those particular sins. It’s a complex thing, but at the same time, simple. The father’s virtue and vice affects his children. The mother’s virtue and vice affects her children. And each child will be affected by it differently, therefore living very different lives, each with his own struggles and successes.

Charles doesn’t quite understand many things within the household, of the dynamics and relationships between various members of the family. But, despite the unsettling feeling the wayward children have towards their mother and more pious siblings, there is still an under-lying understanding of their family and faith. Sebastian comments to Charles a few times that he “just can’t understand” because Charles is not a catholic. Speaking as a cradle catholic, this is more often then not, quite true. Sometimes I find myself in conversations with others who simply can’t grasp what I mean. And it comes down to faith. It’s not something you can explain to another person, particularly if they aren’t wanting or willing to understand. Faith is also a gift, and not everyone has been given it – although all they need do is ask for it.

The “wayward” children know the choices they should make, even if they can’t put a concrete reason as to exactly why. Also what struck me was the emotional outrage stirred up in one character during a particular scene, when her older brother spoke simply and openly about her choice to live in mortal sin. The brother wasn’t unkind or accusatory at all in his speech, but speaking openly and truthfully about her actions ultimately brought her guilt to the forefront. This is too true a scenario. When one runs one’s life catering to the passions, it is naturally the emotions which take over whenever an opposition comes about. It usually ends in an ugly scene where said outraged person is illogical, full of self-pity, and contempt for the opposition (and, I might add, all in the name of “being judged”).

We also see the compassion within the catholic characters, the forgiveness which is such a core part of the faith, and the mercy shown it’s most bitter and ornery children, even if it’s merely moments before death. Because ultimately the catholic faith is about Love and making sure we spend eternity with our one True Love.

I really found this story intriguing. It’s written in a captivating style, keeping every moment interesting. And because it is written in first person, there is a vast chance to ponder the reasons behind different characters actions, which adds so much to the story, if you’re one who likes ruminating on various aspects of life and the soul.

 

2017 Book 6: Bella Poldark, by Winston Graham

Last of this twelve book series! It took a day or two to mourn the loss, but fond remembrances of this series will forever allow me to willingly lend these books out to friends or acquaintances.

I found the relationship state of the main hero & heroine as the book comes to an end somewhat odd, considering. But Winston Graham is not a “sunshine and rainbows” type of author. One character finally does get her happy ending, which was a relief. Another suffers an illness that forever changes the course of her life. That was interesting and unexpected, and she still lives the life she wanted, in the end. More deaths, which was not surprising, but I was also quite shocked, due to events in the previous book.

Maybe one day in years to come I’ll read the whole series over again… for now it’ll sit contently on my bookshelf and continue being lent out to various relations and friends.

2017 Book 4: The Loving Cup, by Winston Graham

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Not shown in chronological order

Last week I completed book #10 of Winston Graham’s 12 part “Poldark” series. I really enjoyed this one. I won’t say much about it, since that would give away too much of the entire series.

I watched the first season of BBC’s “Poldark”, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Reading the credits one day I realized the show is based on a series of novels. I happened to find all twelve novels brand new on amazon for a ridiculously low cost, and semi-impluse bought them, knowing I was committing to an entire series I hadn’t yet read one book of, and therefore wasn’t even sure if I would enjoy it. But the series was so enjoyable, surely the books must be even more so (which they generally are). Anyways, having happily avoided the dreaded movie-poster book covers that always come out on novels when they’ve been adapted into television, in the mail came a big box of lovely new paperback novels, to henceforth occupy an entire shelf on one of my bookshelves.

Really, I can’t say much about the novels at all without giving too much away. So instead I will give the situation the story begins on: The year is 1783 and after a few years in the American war, a young squire comes home to Cornwall, England, to find his father dead, his estate in ruins, and the women he loves engaged to marry his best cousin. It’s brilliant, filled with a wide variety of characters, internal struggles, love, rivalries, rebellions, redemption, revenge, history, political workings and more.

I also have to acknowledge how well BBC is doing with the television series in comparison to the novels. They haven’t simply taken the idea and turned it into something new – they are taking the story Winston Graham wrote, and literally putting it to screen. It’s fantastic!

 

N.B. In no way do a I discount movie adaptations in general. In fact, as a generalization I look upon them as separate entities, as the art form is so vastly different one cannot compare.

2017 Book 3: The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

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I wish I had read this book with my book club, or in a class setting, because the different themes expressed throughout this entire book I found fascinating, and would have been fantastic to discuss throughout reading it.

The following passages give plenty of info about the story, so if you haven’t read the book and don’t like spoilers, you should probably stop reading now.

A quick plot guide:    In an early American Puritan society, Hester Prynne is held for public scorn with her new baby in her arms. She refuses to release the name of her accomplice in sin, but he stands in front of her and the public as a revered minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. Her older husband appears back on the scene, and, though he holds no ill against her (he realizes he never should have convinced a pretty, passionate, able bodied, young thing such as her to marry an older secluded man like himself), he swears to discover her accomplice and seek revenge on him. Unknown to the community, he takes on the persona of a one Roger Chillingworth, and settles there as an apothecary. Pearl, Hester’s little girl, is a perplexing creature. Hester puts the child’s oddities and wayward behaviour to the result of being born from an erroneous sinful passion. Seven years go by, and we see the effects of this one mortal sin on all four parties involved.

Hester’s punishment is to forever wear a scarlet letter “A” on her breast. She becomes an outcast, and settles just outside of town with her daughter, Pearl (aptly named for being of great price, purchased with all Hester had). Hester has a skill for sewing, and makes her living with it. But the years of her circumstances as a result of her sin wear an effect on Hester that she otherwise would not have known.

Knowing no love from others, she sees the life before her as her penance for her sin. She gives to others, receiving nothing in return. She becomes a help, a servant to those who persecute her. Over time, her persecutors view turns to a kind of appreciation for her abilities. The Scarlet Letter “A” becomes a symbol of her calling, a beacon of comfort to those who require assistance. “…With nothing now to lose, in the sight of mankind, and with no hope, and seemingly no wish, of gaining anything, it could only be a genuine regard for virtue that had brought back the poor wanderer to its paths. …None so ready as her to give of her little substance to every demand of poverty…She came not as a guest, but as a rightful inmate, into the household that was darkened by trouble; as if its gloomy twilight were a medium in which she was entitled to hold intercourse with her fellow-creatures…There glimmered the embroidered letter, with comfort in it’s unearthly ray. Elsewhere the token of sin, it was the taper of the sick-chamber…In such emergencies, Hester’s nature showed itself warm and rich; a well-spring of human tenderness, unfailing to every real demand, and inexhaustible by the largest. Her breast, with its badge of shame, was but the softer pillow for the head that needed one. She was self-ordained a Sister of Mercy; or, we may rather say, the world’s heavy hand had so ordained her…The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her – so much powder to do, and powder to sympathize – that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength…the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun’s bosom. It imparted to the wearer a kind of sacredness, which enables her to walk securely amid all peril…”

Hester’s knowledge of her sin and the affects it has on herself, her daughter, and the man, humbles her somewhat choleric nature, giving her an understanding and sympathy for fellow creatures. But at the same time, it strips her of her natural beauty. She does not care for others out of love, but rather out of penance. Her outward beauty disappears beneath a cold, harsh front. “The effect of the symbol […] on the mind of Hester Prynne herself, was powerful and peculiar. All the light and graceful foliage of her character had been withered up by this red-hot brand, and had long ago fallen away, leaving a bare and harsh outline… Even the attractiveness of her person had undergone a similar change…austerity of her dress…lack of demonstration in her manners…her rich and luxuriant hair had either been cut off, or was so completely hidden by a cap, that not a single lock of it ever once gushed into the sunshine.

Her natural femininity evaporates as the reality of her sin releases itself. With the disappearance of her outward beauty, so too her inward beauty is lost. She no longer possesses the tender feminine affection looked for in a woman by child and man to love and comfort them. In a sense, she ceases to be woman. She becomes a creature of ash, numbingly plodding along in her tasks, unaffected by others, unable and undesirous of loving others as a woman is meant to. “…there seemed to be no longer anything in Hester’s face for Love to dwell upon; nothing in Hester’s form, though majestic and statue-like, that Passion would ever dream of clasping in its embrace; nothing in Hester’s bosom, to make it ever again the pillow of Affection. Some attribute had departed from her, the permanence of which had been essential to keep her a woman…”

Having committed a grievous sin against purity, arguably a woman’s most valiant virtue,  Hester slowly ceases to be woman in the soulful sense of the name. All the beauty and other virtues of woman are “crushed so deeply into her heart that it can never show itself more”. Woman are meant for love in tenderness and affection, to nurture others, self-sacrifice. In return we are to be cared for, cherished, and loved. When woman goes through a trial of such harsh elements of scorn and lack-of-love, her feminine heart is crushed within her, leaving not a woman at the surface, but a shadow of what once was a woman. It only takes a touch, a true whisper of Love to draw her femininity back out, so she may once again be woman as she is called to be.“…Such is frequently the fate, and such the stern development, of the feminine character and person, when the woman has encountered, and lived through, and experience of peculiar severity. If she be all tenderness, she will die. If she survive, the tenderness will either be crushed out of her, or […] crushed so deeply into her heart that it can never show itself more. The latter is perhaps the truest theory. She who has once been a woman, and ceased to be so, might at any moment become a woman again, if there were only the magic touch to effect the transfiguration.”             – ch. XIII

Arthur Dimmesdale’s punishment is to suffer through the silence of his sin. No one knows of his sin but Hester and Roger Chillingworth (who discovers his victim through observing Arthur’s interior turmoil). His sin causes interior anguish, a depressing loss of hope, as well as a deeper passion for truth, which is brought out in his sermons. As he gains esteem in his ministers position through the eyes of his parishioners, he is also tormented by his falseness towards them because his sin with Hester goes unknown by those who hold him in such high regard. He is disgusted with himself, not because of his sin, but because of his lack of owning his sin to others. He sees Hester suffering alone and longs to suffer with her, but he believes himself too much a coward to own his grave sin, and instead suffers the more for his pride in position. Being a thoughtful and faith filled man, he becomes pathetic for his lack of hope and courage. “…To the high mountain-peaks of faith and sanctity he would have climbed, had not the tendency been thwarted by the burden […] of crime or anguish, beneath which it was his doom to totter. It kept him down, on a level with the lowest; him, the man of ethereal attributes, whose voice the angels might else have listened to and answered! But this very burden it was, that gave him sympathies so intimate with the sinful brotherhood of mankind, so that his heart vibrated in unison with theirs…when poor Mr.Dimmesdale was thinking of his grave, he questioned with himself whether the grass would ever grow on it, because an accursed thing must there be buried! It is inconceivable, the agony with which public veneration tortured him! It was his genuine impulse to adore the truth, and to reckon all things shadow-like, and utterly devoid of weight or value, that had not its divine essence as the life within their life. Then, what was he? – a substance? – or the dimmest of all shadows? He longed to speak out, from his own pulpit, at the full height of his voice, and tell the people what he was…a pollution and a lie!” 

Arthur tortures himself interiorly, and clasps as at the scarlet letter “A” burned into his own heart. He lives with a constant weight of sin upon him, unable to release himself of it. He takes to physical penance, flagellates himself until bloody, and fasts until his body weakens under starvation. His sleep is tremulous, he suffers diabolic influence, haunted by vision of demons and his loved ones turning away from him and his sin. “His inward trouble drove him to practises…In Mr.Dimmesdale’s secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge. Oftentimes, this Protestant and Puritan divine had plied it on his own shoulders; laughing bitterly at himself the while, and smiting so much the more pitilessly, because of that bitter laugh. It was his custom […] to fast […] rigorously, and until his knees trembled beneath him, as an act of penance…He kept vigils […] night after night […] with a glimmering lamp […] viewing his own face in a looking-glass…he tortured, but could not purify himself. […] his brain often reeled, and visions flit before him […] now a herd of diabolic shapes, that grinned and mocked at the pale minister and beckoned him away with him […] now a group of shining angels, who flew upward heavily, as sorrow-laden, but grew more ethereal as they rose… now came the dead friends of his youth…his white-bearded father with a saint-like frown, and his mother turning her face away as she passed by…and now […] glided Hester Prynne, leading along little Pearl, in her scarlet garb, and pointing her forefinger, first at the scarlet letter on her bosom, and then at the clergyman’s own breast. 

Arthur’s falsehood takes away his truth of being. Presenting himself to the world falsely, (or so he believes), his tangibility disappears. He is reduced to merely a creature of pain and turmoil, having no reality but the knowledge of his sin and the effects of it. His physical health diminishes with his mental health. He struggles to hope, thinking himself merely the shadow of the man he used to be, incapable of growing back into a man of integrity. […] at any moment, by an effort of his will, he could discern substances through their misty lack of substance, and convince himself that they were not solid in their nature…But, for all that, they were, in one sense, the truest and most substantial things which the poor minister now dealt with. It is the unspeakable misery of a life so false as his, that it steals the pith and substance out of whatever realities there are around us, and which were meant by Heaven to be the spirit’s joy and nutriment. To the untrue man, the whole universe is false – […] – it shrinks to nothing within his grasp. And he himself, in so far as he shows himself in a false light, becomes a shadow, or, indeed, ceases to exist. The only truth that continued to give Mr.Dimmesdale a real existence on this earth, was the anguish in his inmost soul, and the undissembled expression of it in his aspect. Had he once found powder to smile, and wear a face of gayety, there would have been no such man!                            – ch. XI

Roger Chillingworth, a man of thought and study, befriends Arthur Dimmesdale and devotes his time to manipulating and careening Dimmesdale’s soul to deeper and deeper levels of turmoil. In his quest for revenge, hatred’s grasp grows tighter and tighter on his own soul, until his fiend-like being is consumed entirely by it.

Hester sees this once respectable intellect transformed into a creature of darkness. She encourages him to forgive, and withdraw from the evil that has so consumed him. But Roger Chillingworth has grasped the talons of evil so willingly and so tightly, that he no longer believes he is a free soul, to forgive and ask forgiveness, to live with peace and contentment as he once did. Do not many souls so far down the path of sin do the same thing? When someone says they’re “going to hell anyways” with a chuckle, I shudder. Does the reality of hell not scare you? Do you look forward to eternal torture with beings so evil that God Himself cast them out of heaven? Despair is what opens hell’s gate to you. As long as we have hope, there is a chance to turn from evil. Roger Chillingworth allows himself to be consumed by evil, and in return, consumes evil himself. It is a vicious cycle, only to be broken by a ray of hope, shining a thread of good into the soul.

“…for the hatred that has transformed a wise and just man to a fiend! Wilt thou yet purge it out of thee, and be once more human? If not for his sake, then doubly for thine own! Forgive, and leave his further retribution to the Power that claimed it! I said, but now, that there could be no good event for him, or thee, or me, who are here wandering together in this gloomy maze of evil, and stumbling, at every step, over the guilt wherewith we have strewn our path. It is not so! There might be good for thee, and thee alone, since thou hast been deeply wronged, and hast it at thy will to pardon. Wilt thou give up that only privilege? Wilt thou reject that priceless benefit?”  

“Peace, Hester, peace!” replied the old man, with gloomy sternness. “It is not granted me to pardon. I have no such power as thou tallest me of. My old faith, long forgotten ,comes back to me, and explains all that we do, and all we suffer. By thy first step awry thou didn’t plant the germ of evil; but since that moment, it has all been a dark necessity. Ye that have wronged me are not sinful, save in a kind of typical illusion; neither am I fiend-like, who have snatched a fiend’s office from his hands. It is our fate. Let the black flower blossom as it may! Now go thy ways, and deal as thou wilt with yonder man.”                   – ch. XIV

There are so many themes in this book, I should have kept notes as I read. It is a very interesting look into sin, it’s affects on the sinner, it’s victims, and over-all repercussions. Male vs. female reactions to the same sin, different personally types reaction to the same sin, how sins against purity affect the child, how human interaction, genuine affection and care, can encourage atonement and hope. Finally, how sin, whether visible to the world or not, is indeed on each one of us. No one is free of it – save the Blessed Mother. How you respond to your sinful nature affects your life, and afterlife.

 

2017 book 2 complete: Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott

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Much like it’s prequel, ‘Rose in Bloom’ is delightful and heart-warming. It is filled with good and true ideals, presenting a delicious view of life through a crystal clear lens which allows the beauty of things both large and small to be fully absorbed.

Rose returns from two years abroad with Uncle Alec & Pheobe (her best friend & former kitchen maid) to find her seven boy cousins quite grown up, or at least altered in their current climb to manhood. Being an heiress, she is tried by having lines of suitors, all whom she rejects due to their lack of integrity; people she thought were friends, who prove not to be; and a particular cousin whom she loves dearly, insists on wooing her despite her openness in being averse to his wayward behaviour.

Rose has chosen philanthropy as her “profession”, since she has money at her disposal and need not work for it. She tackles many projects including settling up low-rent homes for women in need, and an orphanage. She does good by her fellow man, receiving little to no credit or gratitude but for that from her Uncle Alec, yet musters on with the satisfaction and contentment of knowing she is loving and caring for others as best she can. This care still includes that of great-aunt Plenty, Uncle Alec, and eventually Rose adopts a toddler orphan girl whose mother was promised her daughter would be cared for. She goes about doing all she can for those she loves, including sacrifices to encourage the “Prince” to drop his prominent vice and become the man she believes him capable of being.

Mac, the “bookworm”, continues to be a considerable character along with “Prince” Charlie in this sequel. Charlie is dear to her due to his charm and unfailing ability to seek back her favour whenever it goes amiss due to his actions, just as he did as a boy. Mac is admired due to his trustworthiness, uncanny, blunt and philosophical nature, which continues to marvel Rose as she urges him to round his character somewhat by putting his books down on the occasional evening and go into society, learn to dance, etc. As his cousins around him fall in love, Mac takes interest in studying the subject and sets out to “keep good company, read good books, love good things, and cultivate soul and body as faithfully as [he] can.”

Tragedy strikes, young lovers persevere through obstacles, each cousin growing and learning along their various paths. I won’t give away the ending, for you should read it yourself and take in the various virtues and qualities Alcott promotes in her writings.

2017 Book 1 complete: Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott

 

eight-cousinsAnd 2017 book reading begins with the completion of Louisa May Alcott’s “Eight Cousins” (or, “The Aunt Hill”).

Although I have read this book before, years ago, I was thrilled to finally purchase a copy of it and read it again! It is such a merry tale of an orphan girl, Rose, and her newly found seven boy cousins. They all live with their various mothers on the same “aunt” hill, save for Rose who lives with great-aunt Peace & Plenty ,and Uncle Alec. Full of escapades, sweet moments of tender affection, children’s imaginative worlds, it’s all wonderfully developed with distinctive and endearing characters. But it isn’t all children’s antics, for Rose’s guardian, romantic-sensible-doctor-bachelor Uncle Alec, is decidedly going to do right by her and struggles to find the balance in raising her to be healthy, active, capable, sensible, feminine, loving, nurturing, and a positive influence in her seven boy cousins’ maturing and growing into men. In a shot, raising her to be the definition of “woman” which all of us gals should strive for.

All the boys have such endearing personalities, expressed perfectly in their nicknames they call each other by. There is Archie the “Chief”; Charlie the “Prince”; Mac the “Bookworm”; Steve the “Dandy”; twins Will & Geordie the “Brats”; and Jamie the “Baby”. Uncle Alec has sensible advice all the time, and the aunts each have their own particular characters as well.

One characteristic I notice about Alcott’s writing style, is she has the odd paragraph that becomes a bit of an exhortation in persuasion of a particular thing. She sometimes uses a character to get her point across, such as Uncle Alec’s housekeeping comments in my previous post. But it is also sometimes her own voice/the narrator whose opening paragraph of a chapter may state a particular opinion or a pondering on the subject or theme to be read about. I quite like it – I agree with most everything she writes about virtues, character, life in general. (“Little Women” is a wonderful read along these same lines!)

I’m an Alcott fan, and Eight Cousins is a great read for children and adults alike.

Nota Bene: I am (once again) enjoying the sequel to this book, more to come once I’ve finished reading it!

Movie Review: La La Land

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*WARNING: Spoiler Alert!* 

      Over all, a cute movie! It was original and had a fun classic movie era flavour to it. There were no graphic scenes against the 6th & 9th, which was impressive and appreciated in such a modern film. The musical numbers were fun, tapping was light, and costumes were colourful.

Ryan Gosling was, of course, endearing and attractive as Sebastian, the down-and-under jazz pianist. I quite liked his character, actually. At the beginning we’re introduced further to his character  in his still-packed-in-boxes apartment. His sister is ragging on him to unpack and grow up but he says he’ll unpack when he has his own jazz place. That’s his dream – to own his own jazz club. He is strong willed and holding onto his dream.

Emma Stone was also good, as usual. Though I liked her character somewhat less then Ryan Gosling’s. Mia is an aspiring actress working as a barista, while she does audition after audition hoping for her big break.

Sebastian and Mia chance meet a few times and the sparks fly. On the third time they finally chat, do a cute dance number, and after he seeks her out at her coffee shop the next day, they end up on a lovely next few months – both working towards their respective dreams, and falling more in love with one another.

I really liked that they are each the reason the other person achieves their goal. Sebastian  encourages Mia to write her play and shoot for her dreams, despite all the failed auditions. He nigh-on forces her to go to an audition that comes about because of that same failed play, which ends up being her big break. Mia encourages Sebastian to take a pianist job with a band he doesn’t like, and isn’t passionate about their music, because it is a steady income and he can eventually open his own establishment with that income. Both characters would have missed their shot, if not for the other character.

I really did like the movie, until we got to the end.

After Mia gets her big break, she has to go to Paris to film. She asks Sebastian where they are at, what will happen? He says she needs to chase her dream, and they’ll see what happens as they both continue life. There’s unspoken love connection going on in this scene, and it’s really sweet. Mia tells him that she “thinks she will always love him”, and Sebastian responds in kind. It’s sweet, but sad, and I sensed the foreshadowing.

Cut to five years later, and Mia is a successful actress, married to some guy, living in a big house, with a little girl. Sebastian owns his own jazz club. Mia and her husband stumble into his club one night, and as Sebastian is introducing the band, they lock eyes. He sits at the piano and plays their “song”, then the whole movie flashes back to the past and goes through the way events would have happened if a few decisions had been made differently. Sebastian doesn’t take the job with the band and go on tour, Mia takes the acting job and they both go to Paris, then they are married and have a little boy and they stumble into the same jazz club except that Sebastian doesn’t own it. When it comes full circle and back to real life, Sebastian and Mia lock eyes again, they smile at each other, and each go their own way.

Interesting ending to such a movie. We were all expecting a sweet fairytale romance ending, but nope. I pondered this ending on my drive home, and have a few ways of reading it.

My immediate reaction was to dislike it, because it was too real for the movie. The entire movie was flirty, fun, and full of dreams. Why end it on such a hard, real note? I also didn’t like how Mia seemingly got all she wanted – fame, money, husband, family, etc. While Sebastian did get his jazz club, but no love. He was still in love with her, and she with him, but she also had another love to fill the void. His was a heart that felt deeper, that was part of his character through the movie. His passion as he played was inspiring, and he would get worked up over situations and conversations that meant something to him. He was full of life and passion. She was ready to quit her dream because she was tired of being let-down. She wasn’t willing to persevere until he coaxed her to it. For him to end on a low-note in love was sad. Especially since he had to watch his love walk away holding the hand of another man. The reality of the situation was a bit too much after such a fairytale-esque story.

On the other side of the coin, she seems to have all she wants, but does she? She gave up true love for her dream. She has everything else she wanted, but was it worth it? Sebastian could have become her new dream. (Side note: That’s another thing that bothers me – in movies it always seems to be the man who has to give up his dream for the girl. In the flashback “what if” sequence, it’s Sebastian who gives up his dream, in the end Mia is still famous and rich, while he doesn’t have his jazz club. Heaven forbid a “strong independent woman” should let go of her dream and find a new one with the man she loves.) But she didn’t let herself love him enough to make him her new dream. She held on to the actress dream of riches and fame.

Sebastian also encouraged Mia to write her plays, because he saw that’s what she was truly passionate about. Her play writing ends up leading to her “big break”, but it’s like she doesn’t allow her true passion to unfold because she’s caught up in acting instead of writing – she’s caught up in what she thinks should be her passion, instead of what truly is her passion. If that’s the case, then a poetic ending for her. She’s now stuck in a life of what she thinks should be hear dream, instead of what really was her dream – Sebastian. And he, having followed his dream, is now happy in a life of his dream, save one thing – Mia. And now they both suffer the consequences of her blindness, selfishness and stupidity.

It was sad to see Sebastian alone at the end. He loved this girl so much, still does (which is apparent when we see he’s named his club after her suggestion instead of the name he was so stuck on in an earlier scene of the movie). He did everything he could to help her, did for himself what he thought she wanted him to do. Then she up and leaves the country, leaves him, leaves love. Only to see her again in the arms of another man, while he still loves her. Wait, is this a dig into “nice guys finish last” ? Maybe. But it’s crap. If he was truly with the right girl, they wouldn’t have lost touch when she left, and they’d be together instead of having a room between them. Same with this “nice guys finish last” crap – guys, if you’re with the right girl, you won’t finish last.

The “what if” sequence at the end was interesting because it showed how one or two decisions affected the entire outcome of the characters lives. Had they made one or two different choices, their lives would have been very different, still including one another and the love they shared. I guess life can be like that – the decisions we make do affect the way our lives turn out. There are consequences to our actions, sometimes for the better, but sometimes for the worse. At least we don’t have real musical numbers running across the television screen when we’re in la la land, letting us know exactly how life would have turned out if…

Or maybe both characters really are happy in the end. Sometimes people come into our lives just as a stepping stone. Perhaps they weren’t meant to stay there, only help you achieve something that needed achieving, learn a lesson you needed to learn, or perhaps instead they needed you in their lives at that time.

When the music has died and the lights are out, maybe a smile across the room is the best you can share now, having gone through what was needed to go through, accepting that you chose another path, or that your paths were always meant to fork away eventually.