'(500) Days of Summer'

Usually when I watch a TV show or movie with company I notice strange nuances in the plot or characterisations that I generally wouldn't pay close attention to. For instance, last week I watched S05E08 of Game of Thrones with my friend and, for the first time EVER watching Game of Thrones, I pinpointed things that didn't fit coherently into the episode. For instance, that entire scene of Ollie talking Sam felt forced, and I was left with the impression that it was inserted for those who cannot follow the plot correctly; whereas when I watch Game of Thrones solitarily it always seems flawless, leaving me in awe. So, up until watching (500) Days of Summer with friends, I thought (as most people do) that Summer Finn was a bitch who used Tom, broke his heart, then flaunted her engagement in his face. But when reading against his perception of their relationship, I began to notice how Summer had treated Tom more-or-less fairly - she ensured that there was no uncertainty between what she and Tom were by reminding him on numerous occasions that she did not want a serious relationship.

I decided to re-watch the movie alone after watching it with friends to double-check that I hadn't misread her signals. I figured the best way to analyse my point would be to study the movie chronologically:

Beginning:
The movie begins recalling the moment Tom first lay eyes on Summer; he immediately thinks that Summer is the one he is fated to be with, so to speak. So we are instantly made aware that Tom has high expectations of how Summer will impact his life.

Day 11:
Tom boasts about his and Summer's similarities to his sister, Rachel, who reminds him that similarities do not make an individual a soul mate. I know Tom does what most people with a crush would do, but seriously, he already cares too much about her. He has only known her for a week, through work, which is realistically only about 6 or 7 days of talking between shifts. Not long at all.

Day 28:
This is the day of the work party, so remember that Summer and Tom are presumably drunk throughout this entire segment. Had Tom understood or remembered a single word of what Summer said in this scene, he would have saved himself a lot of heartbreak. Summer confidently informs him that enjoys her own company and is happy being 'free and independent'. More importantly, she tells Tom that she doesn't 'feel comfortable being anyones girlfriend' or 'anyone's anything', clarifying that she doesn't believe in love, and that she believes serious 'relationships are messy and people's feelings get hurt'. What she tells Tom is normal: she wants to be independent, happy, and to enjoy her young age without any obligations or commitment. Now is where Tom should have understood that his expectations of Summer in his imagination, and the real-life Summer were not parallel. However, this entire scene does end slightly awkwardly because Tom (unwillingly) admits he likes Summer, and she swerves his vibe by asking/telling him that he only likes her as friends. Then she walks away after a tiny bit of flirting, I think? But again, he should have been left with the realisation that she did not want a relationship with him - if she did, she would have said it then.

Day 31:
At work, Summer kisses Tom for the first time, and is later pictured with him at his apartment. Nothing progresses between them apart from Tom's friend making their situation awkward, again.

Day 34:
Summer and Tom go on a Ikea date, and Summer soberly reminds Tom that she is not looking for anything serious, and would like to keep their relationship 'casual' to avoid the pressure and speed of a legitimate relationship - she does not want to fall in to an unhappy mess of a serious relationship with anyone just yet. She also asks Tom if he is sure he wants to participate in a casual relationship, to which he agrees, even though we are all aware by now that he yearns for something more serious. Later in day 34, Tom panics before he and Summer have sex for the first time, rushes to the bathroom, and reassures himself that what they are doing is 'casual'. Clearly he isn't prepared or ready for what he has agreed to; he probably shouldn't have compromised what he truly wanted in the fear of losing Summer entirely.

Day 109:
Tom visits Summer's apartment for the first time - the narrator says that 'this is the night everything changed' because Summer reveals her deepest secrets and thoughts to Tom, and admits she hasn't told anyone else these things before. I can see that this emotional deepening is where Tom may have confused their relationship for something serious, but again, to clarify, this is no fault on Summer's part.

Day 110:
Tom's friends ask what he and Summer are, to which he replies that they are mature adults that do not need to label their relationship. He's on the same page as Summer for once, woohoo. Or is he masking his feelings again, and pretending to be fine about his predicament?

Day 118:
As it happens, he was just pretending; somewhere between day 110 and day 118, Tom overthinks and seeks relationship advice from his younger (prepubescent) sister. He feels as though he and Summer are girlfriend and boyfriend (with official labelling), but is afraid to label their relationship because that would be the kiss of death, which in essence means he fears she won't feel the same and leave him because they are on different pages. His sister advises him to ask Summer for clarification of what they are, and highlights that he is only afraid of asking her because it will 'shatter the illusion' he has built of their relationship. Rachel is one wise gal. Later, Tom musters up the courage to ask Summer for clarification, but she brushes his confusion off with a 'who cares, we are happy right?' (not an actual quote). He agrees and doesn't tell her how he truly feels, which is where I think this all goes wrong. This is the point where Tom should have told Summer he wanted them to be in an officially committed relationship, with some sense of security, but he doesn't. Instead, he leads Summer to believe that he is absolutely fine about their arrangement.

Day 154:
Tom declares that he is in love with Summer; he says she makes life 'worth it'. Now, like my first point, I'm sure this is some kind of indicator that Tom is looking for a relationship to alleviate his already present unhappiness, which, again, is not a stable foundation for a relationship. His expectations of her are constantly unrealistic - he shouldn't expect her to save him.

Day 259:
On this day a guy at a bar is disgusted by the thought that Tom is Summer's date, or boyfriend, which compels Tom to punch the guy in his face, I'm assuming to assert his authority/territory. Summer, who we know can confidently and independently carry herself, is disappointed and slightly frustrated by the fact that Tom resorted to violence over something that she more or less handled herself. They continue to argue about this, then escalate into arguing about their relationship. Summer essentially tells Tom that he cares too much because they are 'just friends', to which Tom (finally defending himself) declares that they are a couple, then leaves. Hours pass and neither can sleep, so Summer visits Tom and they sort of make up. I say sort of because they both apologise for losing their tempers, but the grey area between their feelings remains intact. They both agree they aren't dating and won't add a label to their relationship, but disagree on the future: Tom asks for consistency, to know that Summer won't one day feel differently about him, but she says she cannot provide him with assurance like that. Hopefully any mature adult would know that promising to be with someone forever is wishful at best, because who knows what will happen in the future? Thus again Tom puts way too much hope into what he and Summer are or will be.

Day 282:
I may have missed a day because there is a slight jump between their relationship on day 259 and on day 282; Summer's patience for Tom is progressively thinning now. On this particular day, they are on another Ikea date, and Summer's behaviour is slightly passive aggressive towards Tom.

Between days 282-303:
Summer and Tom breakup. I'm not sure what their exact breakup date is, but it is somewhere between their Ikea date and day 303, which is a post-break up day/scene of Tom being desperately miserable about Summer. Their actual breakup scene is played earlier in the movie, in which they are sitting in a cafe arguing about how unhappy they are. Summer compares their relationship to the destructive one of Sid and Nancy (I don't know who they are, sorry), and with that comparison, their "casual" relationship is over. Interestingly, while typing this, I've realised it's weird how a friends-with-benefits relationship still warrants a breakup. It didn't have to be a messy ending because Summer does attempt to remain friends with Tom - she calls him her best friend, and we know from later days that she emails him to check on his wellbeing.

Day 345:
In an attempt to move on, Tom is on a bind date with a woman called Allison. He stunts his progression in moving on by telling Allison that their date will not lead to anything between them, and proceeds to lament about Summer for a few hours. In an act of kindness, pity and loss of patience Allison attempts to give Tom a reality check with three simple questions; she asks if Summer ever cheated on him (no), if she ever took advantage of him (no), and if she said upfront that she did not want a relationship (yes). Tom misses the point that Allison edges towards and ditches her for karaoke - well done, Tom.

Day 408:
It's the time of Millie's wedding, and Summer and Tom bump into each other on the way to the the venue. I guess Tom's feelings rush back, or hadn't fully left, because when Summer later invites him to a party she is hosting, he attends with the expectation that they will start dating again. Sadly, as the narrator informs us before the scene begins, Tom's expectations do not align with reality; he is devastated to learn that Summer is engaged, and had hid her new relationship from him. In the defence of Summer at this point, she did not know that she was going to be engaged before her party began, although I do see how this entire scenario could have been avoided, or less soul-crushing had Summer told Tom she was seeing someone else beforehand. I genuinely think that this is her only fault throughout the entire movie, and it isn't even that bad of a fault because she has absolutely no obligation to tell Tom she has moved on, and she probably only hid her relationship to spare his feelings. It was just a case of bad timing, not a case of Summer trying to spitefully hurt Tom.

Ending:
At the end of the movie, during Summer and Tom's final meeting, Tom is bitter towards Summer for hiding her relationship from him, and falling in love despite professing that she didn't believe in love or serious relationships at her age. Tom asks her what the difference was between him and her husband, and she informs Tom that she married her husband because she was sure she wanted to commit herself to him - she just 'knew', whereas with Tom she did not. In other words, her gut instinct with both men was different, which is completely fine! The people I've seen this scene with, or have spoken to about say that Summer's honesty was a huge burn, or was careless gloating. I wholeheartedly disagree. He asked her what was different, and she gave him an honest and fair answerIt's not like she would marry someone she wasn't sure about marrying, because that would be stupid, obviously. Besides, after telling Tom she didn't want a relationship for the best part of 11 months, I'm sure he could have gathered that she did not want to marry him, let alone seriously date him.


To conclude this long rant, I hope you can now see Summer and Tom the way I do. Just because we only get Tom's side of the events, does not mean you have to fully sympathise and agree with every word he says. Perhaps this is what first year English has taught me: we were told to not sympathise with Humbert in Lolita, and to read against the text to see him for the creepy paedo he truly is instead of a star-crossed lover he attempts to persuade the readers he is. This is similar, I guess. Tom tries to convince us that Summer misled him then brutally tore his heart from his chest, but that was not the case at all. Summer was always honest and clear about their relationship, it was Tom who masked his feelings from her; had he been honest, he would have saved himself 500 days of whinging.


Let me know if you agree or disagree, and why.

Lots of platonic non-serious-relationship love,
Ang x
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