Let's get this out of the way straight off of the bat. (500) Days of Summer is a fantastic movie, very cleverly written and directed with two great performances from both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Along with Away We Go, it has easily become the most personal movie I've seen all year. And if that film gave me a glimpse of my own future, then this movie has shown me my own past, with all its successes and shortcomings.
Not since Rushmore have I watched a movie and seen reflections of my life so closely mirrored in it. From Joy Division t-shirts, dreams about teeth falling out and fancying yourself as Han Solo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom perfects the everyman role that he has dodged for most of his career. His thoughts of love and his imagination fueled by films had me nodding my head and laughing in agreement with him, then grimacing and feeling his pain and frustrations with Summer. He loves her as simply and purely as he can express and seems to get everything from her but those three words. His love is like the love we experience in real life, not the type that happens in Sandra Bullock movies (which is also helped by being shot in Los Angeles, not New York/Toronto). Whether Summer is inspiring him to do some of his best work or crushing his heart to the point of becoming a shut in, everything is motivated by something as simple as going to a movie or getting something to eat and not a wacky fishing trip or a dinner party with a colorful grandparent. I challenge you to watch the scene where Tom goes to Summer's party and the screen splits into his expectations and his reality without recognizing that the same thought process has run through your own head at some time in your life. Even if you've never been in love, the insecurity and awkwardness that it captures is a uniquely human emotion.
The movie's brilliance lies in perfectly capturing the highs and lows of the relationship and contrasting each with the other. But, the scene that brings it home and hit me right in the chest was when Summer brought Tom back to his apartment and the narrator tells us everything that he's thinking. I have walked into that apartment, had those same thoughts and I was comforted not by any physical connection but by the knowledge that I was the one who was being let into her world, I was the one who earned these stories. I felt her scars, saw her pictures and mementos and heard things that she had never told anyone before.
However, as the movie is quick to disclaim, it is NOT a love story. But, as it moved toward the last twenty days of Summer, I sat there hoping for some kind of closure. And not for Tom, but for myself. By that point, I had completely internalized the story and I had to know how things could end up for me. Perhaps I missed the message of the film and it was really about Tom's speech at work about how greetings cards and movies perpetuate lies and love and relationships. But, I think maybe the message was that things happen by chance and thought they don't work out how you might imagine, they work out the way they're supposed to. And if she's reading this, (she's probably not) I hope you're truly happy, even if it's not with me.