500 Days of Summer, 10 Years Later

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I still remember exactly how my nine-year-old self felt the first time I viewed “500 days of Summer.” A little nervous, I wondered slightly whether or not someone of my age should be watching the film. But mostly, I felt a whole lot of admiration for every aspect of the storytelling, the editing and the cinematography, the depiction of heartbreak, the performances by the actors, and, very importantly, my infatuation with the soundtrack.

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The music is a big part of made this film what it was, and I have to say that my tastes as well as my aesthetic preferences and more as a now-young-adult were shaped by this movie and possibly even the soundtrack. Whenever I hear “Us” by Regina Spektor, hear a thing about “Hall and Oates,” or have “The Smiths,” cross my mind, I am immediately transported back to the world of Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel’s artful and formative depiction of love and loss via this film.

The film follows the stories of Tom Hansen and Summer Finn and what appears to be a very charming and happy love story. However, it is quickly revealed to be the opposite. Tom is a humble and quiet man working as a greeting card writer, hoping to find “the one.” Enter Summer, a quirky and endearing 20-something who charms everyone she meets. Sounds perfect, right? Well, enrapturing and alluring Summer doesn’t believe in love, much like a cynical kid doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy.

Through inventive vignettes and creative editing techniques, we learn that our favorite manic pixie dream girl saw her parents express everything but love for each other, thus ruining her view of romance forever. The film is very unique in the way that it shows the juxtaposing emotions of these two characters. Tom quickly falls head over heels for Summer, but the title, as well as the counting down" of days effect, tells us that the protagonists we are rooting for will not end up together.

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As a self proclaimed hopeless romantic, I wanted so badly to emulate the strong, zany, and independent nature of the witty, lovable, yet closed-off woman that Summer is. After all, isn’t it much easier to disable myself from finding love than to hurt and yearn for something so unachievable? Well, the beauty in this film is that it makes me proud to be a Tom. It is something that has honestly taught me a lot about love, relationships, and unrealistic expectations through trials, triumphs, and errors of navigating romance as a young adult.

Our emotional and sweet Tom, who first exclaims his love for (and the happiness that he gets from) Summer through a very magical “Enchanted”-esque, musical flash mob performance of “You Make My Dreams,” by Hall and Oates, accompanied by benevolent pedestrians and cartoon blue birds, is soon brought down a peg after Summer calls their relationship off.

We see our favorite greeting card boy crash and burn as he experiences the break-up stereotypes: staring at the phone, waiting for her to call, seeing personifications of her everywhere he goes, not eating or sleeping for days, and obviously, venting to pre-teen Chloe Grace Moretz for sibling-like comfort. On the other side of the split screen, we see Summer experiencing heartbreak in a very different yet just as difficult way. This technique, on top of the “expectation vs. reality” sequence that we are shown when Tom is at a party, shows that people heal differently, they heal difficultly, but above all, they do heal.

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This film to me, as cliche as it sounds, is an allegory for the cheesy phrase (and pardon me for saying it) “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” As played-out and silly as that sounds, it truly is the essence of the film. Tom’s healing process, his anger at Summer for hurting him so, and the freezing cold burn that is world-shattering lonesomeness after losing his companion is all a representation for how one should be grateful to have experiences while they last.

Although love, laughter, and memories mean so much, and while it may be impossible to see yourself being okay and happy without the other person by your side, the story of Summer and Tom shows us that having someone in your life, even for 500 short days, even if they’re engaged to someone else by the end of it, even for just a glimmer of a second, is worth the pain of loss. Heartbreak is part of human nature, and being able to grow from losing someone close to you is one of the most vital and formative occurrences that one can stumble upon in order to propel their growth.

Still with me? Great, let’s talk music some more. This soundtrack shines a light on some quintessential indie tunes from the early 2000s. Further, Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition” as well as Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends” help convey the wistful, romantic, and borderline hurtful tone of this film. In this blog series, I like to craft a playlist that blends important sounds and songs from the soundtrack with music from the current and more recent sound sphere to craft exactly what the soundtrack would sound like today, if the film came out in the anniversary year! In 2019, I picture the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack to sound rather similar, but blended with more bedroom/indie pop sounds.

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Artists like Beabadoobee and Claud capture the tender adolescent essence of Tom’s inner monologue, thus why I included tunes such as “Dance With Me” and “Easy.” Songs like The Kooks’ “Sweet Emotion” help continue the angsty/rowdy side of the soundtrack via some smooth beats while still maintaining the early 2000s alternative vibe.

I also incorporated songs that seem to capture how one of the characters may have been feeling in the midst of the film, which is why I selected “GONE GONE/THANK YOU” by Tyler, the Creator, for I believe this song exemplifies sad yet grateful acceptance of losing someone close to you. “Still Feel Like Your Man” by John Mayer represents both the fame of John Mayer around the time of the film’s release through showcasing his new tunes while simultaneously showing how the sad regret and recovery of loss while also feeling like someone’s “man.”

“Library Love Song” by one of my favorites, Blaketheman1000, is the epitome of Summer and Tom meeting in the elevator vibes, and it really tells the seemingly harmless yet endearing story of boy meets girl. Though there is much more where that came from, I had a lot of fun reflecting upon such an important and meaningful film and its music, 10 years after its release. I hope you listen thoughtfully and openly, and I hope that, somewhere down the road, if you find your self in the grips of heartbreak, you remember that you are not alone, rather, there is something greater waiting for you at the end of it.

With only 500 days to take advantage of, this film taught nine-year-old me (and continues to teach 19 year old me) a lot about love, heartbreak, being grateful for the limited amount of time someone may be in my life, and it taught me how to look back on a particular experience with grateful energy rather than disdain.

Happy listening, and happy loving!

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Caroline Whyte