Why this heart-wrenching song in The Last of Us episode 3 sounds so familiar

The Last of Us

The world can’t stop talking about the historic gay love story in The Last of Us, not least one tear-jerking track played during one of the episode’s most pivotal scenes.

Episode three of the HBO show focuses on the relationship between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) as they meet, fall in love and try to survive.

Music plays a huge part in the 80-minute, critically acclaimed episode and forms the basis of Bill and Frank’s romance. When the pair first meet in 2007, it’s evident that they fall almost instantly in love when Bill plays a haunting rendition of Linda Ronstadt’s gorgeous 70s hit “Long Long Time” on the piano.

Fast forward to the episode’s climactic moment, set in 2023, and Frank is seriously unwell with a degenerative neuromuscular disorder. He asks Bill to give him “one last amazing day” by marrying him and then helping him to take his own life.

What follows is an emotional, cinematic montage of the pair living out their last day together and saying their vowels, set to the tear-jerking strings of composer Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight”.

Fans have expressed how the classical piece is the perfect soundtrack to the devastating scenes, with many picking up that the recording has been used in numerous other gut-wrenching film moments.

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Arrival, the 2016 sci-fi drama film, uses the piece in the closing sequence, as characters Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) grapple with the loss of their daughter. 

In Shutter Island, the song plays as Leonardo DiCaprio, playing Teddy Daniels, yearns for his dead wife Dolores, played by Michelle Williams. 

It appears that show creators are well aware of the music’s unfailing ability to bring out the tears, as it’s also been used for pivotal TV moments in everything from EastEnders to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Peter Hoar, who directed the stunning third episode of The Last of Us, also revealed that he originally wanted to use the piece during his directorial tenure on Channel 4’s It’s A Sin, but it got cut.

In addition to simply being a moving piece of music that instantly connotes disaster and despair, the song itself is actually a protest against the “futility” of war and violence – aligning with the brutality enacted by the FEDRA dictatorship in The Last of Us.

Richter describes the song as a “meditation on violence… the violence of war, at the utter futility of so much armed conflict,” referring specifically to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Following the premiere of The Last of Us episode three, Richter posted a video on TikTok of him playing a piano version of the song, along with the caption: “For Bill & Frank.”

Long may the weeping continue.

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