500 Days of Summer
I think every 13-year old should see this film. It entertainingly illustrates how human people are. Too many people trap others in a box of their making and then proceed to corner them into being what the want them to be. Sadly, it’s usually never the person they were attracted to in the first place. Or if it is, it’s only one facet of that person’s personality. Not just love interests, but friends, parents, children, teachers, celebrities, and politicians; no role is safe from being subjected to someone else’s ideals. Kids grow up and develop their ideas about love from their surroundings, be they joyful or destructive, there’s more to it than what they are witness to. Then there’s the safe movies and books where everything ends wrapped neatly and tied with a bow or everything just ends, there’s so much more to it than that as well. Thirteen-year olds should be introduced to a world where things are left hanging and people don’t apologize and some people learn from their mistakes and some don’t.
People are flawed and in romantic relationships, generally both parties play a part in the dissolution and the level of grief, pain, and sadness that comes at the end. By the same token, both parties play a part in the continuing bliss and happiness as well. Tom and Summer didn’t see eye-to-eye from the beginning and regardless of how her feelings may or may not have changed, Tom shouldn’t have assumed that they would. It’s ridiculous to wait for someone to “come around.” If you aren’t on the same page at the beginning, then accept that and move on. If it is meant to happen between two people, it will happen. I firmly believe that. All the time people spend chasing and shaping someone into their soul-mate is time spent not living, not learning about themselves, not growing, and not becoming someone ready-made for their own ready-made soul-mate. Still, even after soul-mates meet, things don’t just fall completely into place, an effort still needs to be made to keep it going. So kids shouldn’t fall for the notion that their work is done after that either.
Before he even spoke to her he already had ideas of what she was like in his head. Tom lied about how he felt about being casual and then got angry at Summer, blamed her for not being who he want her to be and feeling the way he wanted her to feel. This was all after she had made it clear where she stood. When she said she wanted something casual, he should have just stopped right there. But he’s human, and some humans will go with the flow for sake of the current moment, “future me be damned!” “I don’t want to be rejected, so I’ll just agree to everything.” Seems pathetic, right? But there’s a lot of people out there that take this stance everyday, never realizing the only way it’s going to work is for the other person to love you for who you are; to love you when you don’t see eye-to-eye; love you when you tell them no; and to love you when you change your mind. Of course this must be reciprocated on your end, too. Moreover, you have to love the person you love enough, that when they change, not just their mind, but as a person, that you still love them. That certainly doesn’t mean you need to stay with them, but if becoming a different person is what’s going to make them happy, then you have to love them enough to let them. This also doesn’t mean you won’t be or shouldn’t feel hurt by it, but that’s the risk you take when you give your heart to someone. Anything less is greedy and selfish and not love.
Summer is, as anyone is, free to be whomever she wants to be. She can do whatever, say whatever, and feel whatever. However, I thought that she was cruel and insensitive at the end. She knew Tom want to be with her and because of that, I can only see her behavior at Millie’s wedding as her being selfish and taking advantage of his feelings to entertain herself. I want to say that she certainly didn’t have the intention to hurt his feelings, but knowing their circumstances, when she doesn’t consider his feelings, it amounts to the same thing. No one can control the way another person feels, but there’s no reason to provoke them.
Later, on the bench, placing her hand over his… in my head I screamed, “don’t touch him!” It was bad enough that she was there hoping to see him but to rub salt in the wound by placing her bejeweled hand on top of his. Don’t even try to tell me that’s some form of comfort. All of it was completely unnecessary. Well, except for the part where Summer tells Tom that he was right about fate and love, but just not about her. That part is necessary, because that’s the whole point of the story: just because you want it to be doesn’t make it so; that only works for Picard. It’s this part that I want the 13-year olds to understand.
So, back to what I said earlier about people not apologizing and just above about her intention to hurt his feelings… While she agreed with Tom (in a non-definitive way, I might add) that she should have told him about her relationship at Millie’s wedding, she never apologized for not doing so. When I consider that only moments before, Summer suggested that Tom should only congratulate her if he meant it and his response was basically a gesture of rescission, I am lead to believe the rather obvious absence of an apology from her means that she lead him on, knowingly. Those kids just entering their teenage years need to know that even when the right thing for someone to do is to apologize or explain their actions, some people just don’t and you can’t make them. And the only thing trying to will make is a more miserable life for you and it will also waste unnecessary amounts of time that you’ll never get back. Understanding that love and truth are inextricably linked and having one without the other means you have neither is something else the kids need to know. The only thing you have absolute control over is you. Fortunately Tom was able to understand a bit of that in the end.
Now, about the feature as a whole, I enjoyed it. I like the nonlinear timeline and I love the variety of storytelling methods Marc Webb employed. Documentary, classic French, beat generation, musical, split screen, and so many others. He really made it work. However, I hope he doesn’t feel the need to do that in every movie, I’d hate for it to become a gimmick. Oh, speaking of split screen, I really loved it; the way it was used in this film is now one of my favorites along with the tongue-in-cheek implementation in Down with Love. 500 Days of Summer was a fun, sad, frustrating, and thoroughly entertaining film. I’d watch it again.