Day 488

Fair warning: This post is riddled with spoilers. I don't think knowing the plot lessens the story though, I already knew it before I watched it and could appreciate it all the same. Besides, in the movie itself you mostly already knew how it would end from the beginning.

This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he'd never truly be happy until the day he met the one. This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total mis-reading of the movie The Graduate. The girl, Summer Finn of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief. Since the disintegration of her parents' marriage she'd only loved two things. The first was her long dark hair. The second was how easily she could cut it off and feel nothing. Tom meets Summer on January 8th. He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.
And it's true, it's not. It is classified as such, but it's not a love story, it's a story about love.

Just watched (500) days of summer. Some time ago, I was reading about this movie and certain things about it caught my attention. I was never a fan of romantic films. Whether things work out in the end or not, love and relationships in these movies tend to be portrayed in an overly idealistic manner which fails to capture the reality of life. So I appreciate these stories which are very real.

The story in the movie is not told in chronological order, but here's a short summary of what happened in roughly the first 290 days. Tom meets Summer, he falls in love. They enjoy each other's company and grew closer. Summer is clearly interested, but she doesn't want a relationship and clearly lets Tom know this. Despite that Tom continues to pursue her. As they spend time together, Tom sees that their relationship is pretty much that of a couple but Summer doesn't acknowledge it. Tom pressures her, wanting to confirm their relationship status but Summer remains uncertain and insists that they are friends. This, among other things which will be highlighted later, strains their relationship. The relationship breaks down officially on day 290.

A familiar story perhaps.

There are people who hate the movie because they hate summer. She seems to lead Tom on constantly, as if toying with his heart and finally breaks it when she gets bored. Well, by my personal standards I would say yea there are certain boundaries she certainly should not have crossed (you shouldn't be kissing someone you aren't sure of, much less sleeping with them), but those are my moral standards. I think for this movie however the important thing is to understand the essence of it, which is what these actions mean for Summer and what they mean for Tom.

The truth is, Summer has stated multiple times from the beginning and throughout that she was not looking for a relationship. Yes, in many ways they behave like a couple, but Summer doesn't see it that way. It's evident that Summer was interested, but for various reasons she didn't want to be his girlfriend and Tom just didn't get it. He continues to see themselves as a couple, and pressures Summer to acknowledge it, which she doesn't. So it's not Summer's fault that they 'broke up', because to her they were never in a relationship. She couldn't have toyed with his heart if she had repeatedly let him know that she was not interested. It was Tom who led himself on.

One sequence that struck me was nearing day 290 where they had an argument about their relationship status.
Tom: Look, we don't have to put a label on it. That's fine. I get it. But, you know, I just... I need some consistency.
Summer: I know.
Tom: I need to know that you're not gonna wake up in the morning and feel differently.
Summer: And I can't give you that. Nobody can.
It's interesting to know that Tom calls it putting a label on it. Which simply means that to him, he already thinks of Summer as his girlfriend but just without the label of 'girlfriend' on it. Now he desires that confirmation from Summer who has never confirmed anything, and she can't give it to him.

It's easy to think Summer is the villain in this movie when we look at it on the surface level, but we need to observe carefully. The story is told from the Tom's perspective. It is naturally biased towards him. But listen to the things he says sometimes and you'll realise that he just really doesn't get it.

We are like that sometimes aren't we. For the outsiders, things look pretty clear. It is the involved party who just can't see it. Yet, it Tom really looked for it, the signs were all there. He just never noticed them.

Aside from the lack of confirmation which strained their relationship and caused it to break down, there was one other major factor that because increasingly apparent to Summer but not to Tom. That was that they were simply very different people who were not compatible.

When they first met, they had great chemistry. They discovered they both love the Smiths, they really enjoyed each other's company. The electricity was in the air. Tom bought it and fell deeply in love. Summer did not, for she believed that true love does not exist.

Differences in opinions, arguments. Different wavelengths in their communication. They were always there but were made more apparently after the 'honeymoon phase' was over. One of them would say something and the other wouldn't get it or misinterprets it. They sometimes wouldn't understand what each other was thinking.

There was a colour palette theory which I saw (really cool little details) regarding the two of them. Basically, colours play an important role in the story and scenes are often dominantly made up of one colour. Throughout the movie Tom was always portrayed in earthly colours like brown. His environment also often consists of such colours, making it 'his world'. Summer in contrast is always portrayed in bluish colours. When she is in her world, the colours of the surrounding are bluish. Whenever, Tom and Summer are together, they are portrayed in a bluish environment, signifying that Tom is in Summer's world, trying to blend in but out of place. In reality, they are very different people and the stark colour contrast highlights this. Tom was the logic, rationale, consistency type of person. Summer was a free spirit.

Tom was also a selfish person. It's not obvious sometimes because of the perspective which the story is told from, but it's there. It was about what he could get out of the relationship. Tom was in love with 'us', as in he was in love with their relationship. Not so much of with her.

Fast forward, with the 'break-up' and their relationship strained, during the next hundred days or so Tom goes through a very difficult period where he hates Summer, believing that she took advantage of him. It takes a toll on his life. Clearly Tom is being immature about it, unable to control his feelings, but he doesn't think of it that way and blames Summer. The other characters notice it though, with his little sister asking what really did Summer do to him?

Eventually, they met again on their way to a mutual friend's wedding. Tom thought he was over her but over the course of the time spent together, his feelings rekindled. When Summer invited him to a party, he agreed to come, believing that he had an opportunity to renew their relationship. This leading to one of the most iconic scenes of the movie:

It was crushing. Right to the end he held on to that hope, carrying that expectation. Even as things didn't seem to be developing the way he envisioned it would, he held on to his expectations until finally, the door was firmly shut and his expectations were destroyed. Everything made sense at the moment. He was at her engagement party.

Expectations. Sometimes when you get too emotionally invested into something, you have such expectations. When they don't turn out the way you want them to, its devastating.

So Tom went through yet another cycle of depression lasting slightly under 100 days. During this time, the wounds slowly heal as he rediscovers his love for architecture, going back to his world.

Day 488 was my favourite scene in the movie. Such an interesting coincidence. I didn't title this post day 488 for that reason, I didn't even know day 488 in the movie referred to this day, I had titled it so for some other reason before I starting writing and as I write this paragraph searching for which day the scene occurred, I found out it was day 488 as well.


Day 488 in the movie was the final time Tom and Summer met. Summer had just gotten married and was waiting at Tom's favourite spot thinking he would come by and she wanted to talk to him, to know how he is doing.

Tom has got out of his cycle of depression. He has gotten over Summer and is moving on, searching for a new job and doing what he loves. Still, this meeting was tense but it was much needed for both of them.
Tom: Then why did you dance with me?
Summer: Because I wanted to
Tom: You just do what you wan't don't you
Tom at this point still did not fully get it. He still thought that Summer played with his feelings. He's over her now but he still has that little bit of bitterness and anger left in him. He continues to demonstrate his misunderstanding of Summer.

Then this conversation happened:
Tom: You never wanted to be anybody's girlfriend and now you're somebody's wife.
Summer: It surprised me too.
Tom: I don't think I'll ever understand that...I mean, it doesn't make sense.
Summer: ...It just happened.
Tom: Right but that's what I don't understand. What just happened?
Summer: I just... I just woke up one day and I knew.
Tom: Knew what?
Summer: ...What I was never sure of with you.
This was the point Tom finally understood. Summer didn't believe in love, so even though she was interested in him, she didn't dare to commit. She was not too comfortable with that idea, unsure if getting together with Tom is really wise. Sure enough as time went by, she realised that they were indeed incompatible. Later when she met someone she could really resonate with, she knew.

Finally, genuinely from his heart, he looks at Summer and says 'I really hope you're happy'.

This is the story of Tom and Summer, a story about love.

Who was at fault? No one really. We try to pin the blame on someone sometimes when things don't go right, but it isn't always someone's fault.

Perhaps Summer should not have gone that far when she was unsure of the relationship. Certainly like I mentioned at the start, I think Summer definitely did go too far. But how far we can go is subjective as well isn't it. I personally think in order to not lead anyone on we shouldn't even be spending much 1 to 1 time with someone we are not interested in. That's a conservative stand which others would beg to differ.

Tom just didn't get it. In that sense it was his fault, he set himself up for his own fall. Yet, all I can say is he didn't know better. He believed that things could work out and he earnestly sought to make it work. He got his hopes up, he failed to see the warning signs. And so his fall was harsh.

That's just life.

The film ends with Tom going for a job interview where he meets Autumn. There is chemistry, but this time it's different. Autumn recognises Tom from his favourite place where she goes to as well. They are both architects, and she they both wore and were surrounded by the earthly brown colours.

I believe that things will work out for them. The time Tom spent with Summer was not wasted, he had learnt valuable life lessons from them, and with these and a girl who is more compatible with him, it can work out.