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Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer


Recently I revisited one of my favorite (if not my favorite) movies I have ever watched: 500 Days of Summer.  I find this movie so intriguing because of the psychological and literary concepts that were shown in such a casual and captivating technique on the screen.  The following is an analysis as to why this film continues to garner such a strong emotional reaction from fans years after its release. 

500 Days of Summer is based on the lives of  Tom Hansen and Summer Finn.  As Tom falls in love with Summer and is completely misunderstanding her behaviors and her intentions, Summer makes it very clear that she does not want a serious romantic relationship with Tom.  Her reasoning is that she doesn’t even believe in love; she never wanted to be anybody’s boyfriend or “anybody’s anything.”  The movie actually starts by stating that this isn’t a love story, but it is a story about love.  

When Tom met Summer he immediately fell in love with her and all of her flaws.  He met her in his office in the business of writing cards.  Tom made it very clear that he hated his job, and that he only did it for the money and his actual dream was architecture. His happiness while working at this job was basically all dependent on his mind and the version of life he had to create to be happy with settling for a job that was not his dream.  Once he met Summer, she had helped him realize that his authentic self was architecture, and eventually in the end of the movie he does change careers to architecture because he learns to follow what he loves after all of the things he goes through during the “500 days of summer.” What’s interesting is that once he turns to his original passion, the audience sees how easy things are coming to him that aren’t forced, as a parallel to his happiness in his job having to be forced, and Summer’s feelings. 

He was so in love and infatuated with her that he was willing to pretend he was okay with just having a “casual” relationship and not be committed to each other.  But as you can see, as every day of the “500 days of summer” passes, he starts to consider her part of himself, he bases his entire love and happiness on this woman who made it very clear that she doesn’t want anything close to what he wants with her.  But he doesn’t want to believe the words she’s saying, and he ignores them.  

“I love her smil.e”

“I love her hair.”

“I love her knees.”

“I love how one eye is higher up on her face than the other eye.”

“I love the scar on her neck from this operation she had as a kid.”

“I love how she looks when she’s sleeping.”

“I love the sound of her laugh.”

“I love how she makes me feel.  Like anything’s possible.  I don’t know… like life’s worth it.”

The feelings on her end weren’t platonic, but they weren’t actual love.  Tom gets so wrapped up in their situation that he seems to ignore her actual intentions with him, just waiting for her to change for him–that one day she will wake up and realize that this is the man that she wants to marry and have a life with.  

The literary significance of showing how hard he fell in love with her shows the way that 2 people can experience the same thing, but have completely different perspectives.  To her, he was a guy that was a great experience, but she made it clear that she didn’t see anything there, but he saw not just something there but he genuinely saw and felt everything.

Towards the end of their story together, she makes a reference when ending things with him that is an example of psychological literature.  She says that she was shocked about his devastated reaction because they were like Sid and Nancy from the band Sex Pistols. This parallel is in reference to the fact that Sid ended up killing Nancy, but their relationship has been known to have been all fighting and traumatic.  But the way that Tom described his relationship with Summer was beyond love and completely idolized.  This reveals the theme that although they both experienced the same relationship, they both had a completely different understanding and perspective.  This comes down to the fact that he was in love with her, and she just did not see him the same way that he did and he misconstrued her signals as wanting something more than a casual fling, although she did state her intentions.  

His confusion and absolute astonishment with what she said was part of the reason that he fell into a deep depression, and lacked that feeling that life was worth it as Summer was gone.  But Summer didn’t believe in love because she had never been in it before, not with Tom and not with any of her past relationships.   

He didn’t understand how somebody can experience the same relationship he did and not feel anything for the person, because he experienced it with love and she didn’t.   He didn’t believe her when she said she isn’t changing her mind about them not being a serious couple because of his interpretation of their relationship.  

Eventually, he goes on a blind date with a girl named Alison.  There was nothing wrong with her, in fact he expressed his feelings that she was very attractive and had a wonderful personality, but he didn’t see it going anywhere because he was still in love with Summer.  They end up going to dinner and he begins to discuss his feelings about what happened with himself and Summer.  Alison says while they were at dinner, after Tom had said to Alison that Summer had disregarded his feelings, that she did a terrible thing by ending things with him.  He expands on the concept that Summer had broken his heart, and was absolutely terrible and in the wrong for doing so.  And then Alison brings together the entire concept of the movie in a simple conversation.

“She never cheated on you?”

“No, never.”

“She ever steal or take advantage of you in some way?”

“Not… really.” 

“And she told you upfront she didn’t want a relationship?”


“Jesus Tom… did she break your heart or did you?

This story highlights the concept that the version of a person that Tom’s brain wanted to know and be in love with overpowered the actual feelings she was expressing to him, which led him to essentially break his own heart.

At the end of the movie he reunites with Summer and he thinks that they are going to get back together, but soon finds out that she actually got married.  This made him question everything she ever said to him about her not wanting a relationship with anybody, not just him.  But what she says was that she woke up one day and knew “what she wasn’t sure of with Tom.”  That sentence wraps up the situation perfectly.  What he was sure of about her, she wasn’t sure of with him.  It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in love like she thought, or that she didn’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend because she had this great thing with Tom but just wasn’t sure the way she was sure of this new husband.  But Tom did, and the idea of her he made in his head overpowered her and her actual emotions.  It wasn’t either of their fault that she didn’t feel it with him, his fanatical feelings of love for her were more in his head than in reality.  Now that she knows what love is, she understands how Tom felt about her and she wants him to let her go so he can find it himself.  Because he was right that love was real, he was only wrong about the person that made him feel that way so strongly.  

At the end of the movie, he attends an interview for a job in architecture, which was his original passion regardless of Summer and her tie to the card business he was in.  When he is at this interview, he meets a woman named Autumn who is presumed to be his future love interest and somebody who was actually right for him.  But the parallel to meeting this woman at the interview as compared to meeting Summer in the card business is that when you follow your dream, your dreams come to you and you stop having to dream as hard.  He had to dream about Summer, and what she wanted didn’t come to him, just like his job in the card writing business. But he meets Autumn, who is presumed to be the next girl he falls in love with when he was following what he loved and it seems that she came to him, as she initiated the first conversation.  The irony in her name being Autumn is also symbolic of a new beginning, which is his new love interest, and the commencing of the 500 days.  Although we do not find out the ending with Autumn, we find that beautiful things come to you when they aren’t forced, and when you try to force things (like his old job and Summer) you end up hurting yourself even more chasing a fanatical happiness that wasn’t there.

Although this is a story about love, and how he fell in love with somebody and ended up breaking his own heart, towards the end there are some symbolic references to following what you love instead of settling for less, because when you settle for less things that see your value as less will come to you.

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