Romantic comedies are often known for having a predictable story of boy meets girl, illustrating a pleasant picture of how love can blossom despite differences, how a couple’s love can surmount all of life’s troubles. As anyone that has loved someone only for it to end in heartache knows, relationships can have their bitter moments. Even the most successful ones can take work, so it may be some comfort to those who have suffered a breakup to be told within the opening of (500) Days of Summer: “This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.”
Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) believes that there is one true love for him, and his life will not be complete until he has found her. When Tom meets Summer Finn (Zoey Deschanel), his boss’s new assistant, he feels that his one true love has been found. Summer does not share Tom’s ideal and even reveals in conversation during a night out at a karaoke bar that she feels, “There’s no such thing as love. It’s a fantasy.” Despite their differences, a relationship develops between them, but the film also shows us how it ultimately collapses through a uniquely non-linear structure.
There are many cinematic techniques that bring this film together that makes (500) Days of Summer delightful to watch. There is the juxtaposition of fantasy and reality, and one illusionary scene that stands out is the morning after Tom and Summer have slept together for the first time. Tom makes his way to work feeling elated as people passing-by commend him on his success, joining him in a hilarious dance number to ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’ by Hall & Oates.
The use of juxtaposition is also effective within (500) Days of Summer. At one point Tom describes some of the qualities and habits that he likes about Summer, only to later recite the same visual aspects and mannerisms as to why he hates her. Through the breakup, we see Tom’s beliefs and ideas on love challenged, which were previously formed by his “exposure to sad British pop music”.
The music in (500) Days of Summer contributes greatly to the emotion of certain scenes, which could be perhaps attributed to director Marc Webb‘s prior work in making music videos. Music from Morrissey and The Smiths, which Tom and Summer both have an affinity for, is often heard alongside many other unique songs that add to the profound impact of certain scenes. An instance where this occurs is when Summer invites Tom to a party at her apartment sometime after they have split up, and ‘Hero’ by Regina Spektor strengthens the emphasis between Tom’s expectations of attending the party juxtaposed against the cold actuality of what ends up happening.
Some audiences may find (500) Days of Summer a touch cliché, and though it may not be the first rom-com to focus on a doomed relationship, it is a refreshing take on the concept even after nearly a decade since its release. The use of lyrical music, imaginative scene constructions, and even homages to classic cinema, along with the eccentric non-linear narrative, make (500) Days of Summer an enjoyable and engaging watch with which many audiences can empathise.