Film Review: 500 Days of Summer

(Please note: This was my first ever film review, so it does contain spoilers and is more of an analysis of the film rather than a review.)

I watched 500 Days of Summer expecting the usual boy-meets-girl and lives happily ever after scenario; whilst I was completely wrong in my expectations, I absolutely love this film.

Directed by Marc Webb, the film follows aspiring architect Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a man who falls head over heels for a woman named Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who doesn’t believe in love at all. But can Tom persuade Summer that love is real?

The narrator introduces the film by saying, “This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know upfront, this is not a love story.” I guess it’s a more boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl is in no way looking for commitment. But if you explained it in that way, why on earth would you want to watch it, right?

This is when we meet Tom, as the narrator goes on to detail the first time Tom meets Summer, as he realises straight away that she is the one he has been looking for. The two appear so perfect together and, for now, it’s hard to see it going any other way.

This is the first scene in the film – Day 488 – a flash forward. Tom and Summer are sat on a bench smiling at each other. Summer holds Tom’s hand and the camera focuses on the ring on her finger. We do not hear the conversation, so we do not know the situation. But we know that they are the two main characters who have some form of relationship. Presumptions are made that they are engaged/married.

We then go back to Day 290 – Tom and Summer’s “break up.” This still leaves us with 198 days for the possibility of them working things out, so it’s easy to remain optimistic about the two. Tom explains that things have been going really well, and we see a series of clips of them together. It’s not until later in the film that we find out that the majority of these scenes ended badly. For now we only see scenes such as the ones in the picture below, which give the impression of them being in a happy relationship.

The film focuses for a while on Tom and Summer meeting, getting to know each other and starting what appears to be a relationship. They first speak to each other on Day 4 when they share their love for The Smiths in the elevator, and it seems like it can only go up hill from here.

However, as we get to Day 28, an important conversations takes place. Summer tells Tom says that she doesn’t want to be in a relationship and that she “doesn’t feel comfortable being anyone’s anything.” Tom asks her what would happen if she fell in love but Summer says that she doesn’t believe in any of that and that love is just a fantasy. I love Tom’s quote in reply, “It’s love, not Santa Clause.” The scene ends with Tom telling Summer that he likes her but she turns the conversation around by telling Tom that she’s glad they can just be friends, leaving Tom disappointed, but knowing where he stands.

Much like these happy/sad scenes keep alternating there are many other contrasting scenes in the film, as we are then shown Day 282 when the couple are in Ikea and Tom is joking about the sinks being broken whilst Summer doesn’t seem amused. This then switches to Day 34 when the couple did the same thing, but this time Summer plays along and they go from room to room joking about living in the show rooms.

This is done again when the film skips to Day 191 showing the couple laughing at the cinema and then switching to Day 314 where Tom falls asleep in the cinema alone, and then again with a scene of Tom listing the things he loves about Summer which is contrastic against a scene of him listing the same characteristics but changing the word ‘love’ to ‘hate’. These contrasts are used throughout the film to show many scenarios differing from what happened in the beginning of their relationship to what happened towards the end.

By Day 118, Tom wants to know what the two are doing and he asks his sister, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, for advise. Unfortunately Moretz’s character is one I can’t get to grips with; an 11-year-old girl swearing, acting as the shoulder to cry on and offering vodka in times of need – there’s just something abnormal about that. She tells Tom to “stop being a pussy” and that he is only scared of getting an answer that he doesn’t want to hear, thus making the good times that have happened a mere illusion. When Tom confronts Summer, she replies that they’re both happy and asks, “Who cares?”, telling Tom that they’re just friends. Tom, however, responds that he needs some consistency, that he needs to know that Summer won’t wake up one morning and feel differently, but Summer replies, “I can’t give you that, no one can.”

After we know the couple have broken up and that Summer has moved away, the couple meet again on Day 402, when Summer invites him to a party at her house. This is when all expectations are lost, literally, as the screen is split into two halves; one named “Expectations” and the second named “Reality” In expectations, we see Tom going to the party, the two kissing, the two talking all night and eventually ending up together, but this screen is slowly taken over by reality and eventually it disappears. We now see Tom spending the night by himself, barely talking to Summer and then noticing an engagement ring on her finger. We know now that the first scene in the film was not about the two of them, and that instead Summer has found commitment with somebody else.

What I like most about 500 Days of Summer is that the film uses a huge reversal of roles, showing relationships in an almost more traditional way. Rom-coms usually focus on the male character as the dominant role in a relationship and they typically end in a unrealistic happily-ever-after; that’s why this film is so different. Here, we see the female character stepping up to the male stereotype of only wanting to have a bit of fun and refusing commitment or wanting to label the relationship.

This is a more realistic look at relationships. Tom believes at the start of the film that meeting Summer could only be explained by one thing – fate. By the end, however, he learns that Coincidence is all that anything ever is. There is no such thing as miracles, there is no such thing as fate and that nothing is meant to be. Relationships don’t always end up the way we would hope and this film shows this so well, and as the narrator concludes, “Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin and they end with no lasting memory between. Most days have no impact on the course of life.”

Tom comes to deal with Summer moving on and eventually meets a girl called Autumn (how ironic!). I was initially disappointed that the two didn’t get back together, but upon reflection I realise that the film, instead, hasn’t spent the last two hours filling my head with the false hope and unrealistic expectations of a normal rom-com.

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