"I knew I could promise him I'd feel the same way every morning. In a way that I... I never could with you." - Summer Finn
It's either pretty uncanny that the story of Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) in this film would have paralleled a personal experience cutting in too close for comfort, or that the story by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber would cover such common ground that a disclaimer in the beginning was appropriate. Either way, this is not your typical romantic film meant for dates, but rather more of a therapy session for those still suffering from severe heartache. So allow me to indulge a little, and forgive me if I tend to ramble on, with spoiler alerts on.
(500) Days of Summer chronicles the entire love-found, love-experienced, and love-lost of Gordon-Levitt's Hansen, brought up to believe in the notion of The One, where he's patiently waiting for that girl to appear, someone whom he knows he'll be able to spend the rest of his life with. Enter Deschanel's Summer, who's everything he envisioned and he thought the puzzle was complete, only that Summer has, through her experiences, decided in a manner very upfront about any potential relationship with Tom, or others for that matter. Personal Life Fact Check One: I was told, warned even, that it's gonna be casual, with no pressure and we take it as it goes.
But hey, when the girl sends all the right signals, you move headlong with it, don't you? And inevitably it was the time of their lives, where romance and spontaneity were the order of the day. No label or "regonition" is going to jinx what has been strongly established and what the hearts truly felt, and basically the lovers bask in each other's presence. The scene at Ikea was insane, in a touching way. Personal Life Fact Check Two: Ditto on the labels, and as far as I recall, it didn't bother me in any way. Little did I know of course.
Then the inexplicable separation. It just happened. Without much warning, though what Summer did, was like a flashback to my personal past. The disinterest, the disengagement, zoning out. On hindsight we always tend to look back, to search for clues on the first signs of breakage, only to find none because we may be too blinded. Nobody's perfect, though I always think one of the most cruel things to say aloud, is to tell you'll always remain as friends. Innately you know you always will, but deep down always regretting that somehow, somewhere, something screwed up. Then the brushing of the hand away from yours, then disappearance. Personal LIfe Fact Check Three: All the above.
But of course with separation brings about the rather idealistic goal of trying to win someone back, which is more or less what Tom attempted, to detriment results. They meet on a train, and decided on a whim to go for a coffee session where they spend some incredible moments post-breakup. Personal Life Fact Check Four: We met on a train platform, though her walking into the train and me heading out of, didn't offer an opportunity to chat. But look her up I did, and we spent some time chatting over tea at the airport one very early morning.
There were enough poignant moments thereafter in the last arc of the film to make me go through those turbulent emotions buried deep in my memory all over again, which culminated in what would be one of the saddest, yet happy moments on a park bench. Sad because for someone who didn't believe in love, she sure got that wedding band fast (for someone who told me she didn't believe in it), and also the words that came out of Summer's mouth was on one hand true, yet very piercing to the heart. Happy, because it was one of the final moments you know that you needed for closure, that someone had already obviously moved on, and one should too. Personal Fact Check Five: Well we didn't meet on a park bench, but we met at a mutual friend's wedding dinner. The engagement ring was there so it was self-explanatory. She looked happy, and I'll only congratulate her if I mean it. She got married last month.
So that was (500) Days with one of the most incredible persons I've ever shared plenty of experiences with, good or bad. Like one of the characters advised, each time we look back we see all the good stuff, and neglecting the bad ones, which is often why we feel so miserable. The story do take the opportunity to preach what all friends would tell you when you've broken up, either about the other trees in the forest, or the other fishes in the sea... but in any case, it'll never, ever be the same again.
If you've made it this far, then allow me to go back to the movie, and I have to admit it was rather therapeutic writing about the above, with the film providing that excuse just to do so. Be warned though the narrative is told in non-linear format, though the animated inter-titles do show at which stage of Tom and Summer's relationship we're observing, together with the postcard perfect landscape where the hues and tones give you that clue of the season, as well as the analogy of the mood as experienced by Tom.
Given that the characters have fantastic taste in music, and spend some time in the theatres, there are just enough pop cultural references (love The Graduate), as well as a slew of well-chosen songs which brought out emotions to a higher level. Not only that, the part which wowed me the most, and kudos to director Marc Webb, is the split screen treatment of Expectation and Reality, a gimmick so wonderfully used, that the scene just begs for another viewing of the film.
Both Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel did wonders with their roles, and while I can identify with the roller coaster emotions felt by Tom through the former's acting, it was more painful watching Zooey Deschanel's Summer performance, because of the kooky way things happened, and the nonchalance shown which was so, so similar to what I had experienced, as if watching it happen all over again, right in front of my eyes, making me want to scream out to Tom and say "that's the sign, man, time to bail or be prepared to get your heart shattered".
I like this movie too much, and am going to propel it firmly to the one of my favourites this year. It's strange that I could like a film that made me feel so down after watching it, and it's not as if it spoke of the end of the world, but just that unreal emotion (which I was a subscriber to, many years back, and sometimes on occasion) called Love. However, a sentimental director friend of mine told me this, that these girls have to go away so as to make way for the real someone to come.
I shall hold these last words she told me with great faith, just as how the film concluded full of hope for the broken hearted out there.