Steven Spielberg once named the final shot of the Star Child in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as the most uplifting and hopeful image in cinema history. I don’t know what my pick for that title would be but the last seconds of Magnolia may be at the top of my choices.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s emotional epic ends with Melora Walters’ Claudia, a character who spends the majority of the film at rock bottom – addicted to cocaine, insecure and haunted by a troubled past. But in the film’s final moments she finds solace in the shape of John C. Reilly’s kind-hearted cop Jim Kurring who promises to love and care for her no matter what. Finally she has found a light at the end of the tunnel. As if to assure the audience she will be fine, she turns to the camera and bears a beautiful, tearful smile just as Aimee Mann’s Save Me peaks. Simple, moving and perfect.