***Spoilers to follow of course***
Relationships can be as complicated
as they are interesting. Particularly when two people are on two different pages of the story. In reality we often see relationships with one person loving more than the other. This disconnect can often lead to heartbreak and with the story of Tom and Summer, we see exactly that. As we experience the 500 days of Summer through Tom’s eyes as he falls deeper in love with Summer while NOT being in a relationship with her. Summer adds to illusion as she shows him love and affection until she eventually loses romantic interest in him only to marry another man.
Tom may have been the victim or perhaps he set himself up for failure.
The film however certainly captures a type of reality of relationships that is appealing to analyse.
The meeting & attraction:
It can happen anywhere can’t it? We can meet a potential partner at work, the bookstore, the gym, school, university, a party etc. The person may not even be the most beautiful person the world, but there is…something about them. The way they smile, the colour of their eyes, the way their hair looks, the way they speak, the way they laugh, their confidence, their body language or even the way they sneeze (hey I’m not here to judge).
In Tom’s case, he met Summer in the work place. A card company. The moment he sees her there is already a sense of attraction for her. It takes only a few moments in the elevator with Summer for him to discover that she enjoys the same music he does which cements his attraction towards her.
Love in beautiful in that way. It has the power to make the insignificant, significant. It’s the little things that make us fall for someone. We cannot control who we become attracted to. We can only let our desires take the wheel and hope it does not drive us into a wall.
Relationships should be enjoyable interactions between two people who enjoy each other’s company. It’s meant to be…simple…but they so rarely are.
Summer reveals she enjoys being free, independent and likes being alone. She believes relationships are messy and peoples’ feelings always get hurt. That they are young and should enjoy life and save the serious stuff for later and that despite being in relationships in the past she does not believe in love. She believes this due to her parents’ divorce during her early life.
Tom does not agree and tells her that she will know true love when she sees it as Tom always held a belief that he will never truly be happy until he finds ‘the one’.
On some level we have perhaps all felt this way about love the way Tom does. Believing in soul mates, true love and ‘the one’. It makes things more beautiful and romantic in the world to think that a special someone is out there waiting for you to find them. However, we may have been Summer’s at some point, simply wanting to enjoy life. Not be tied down by someone and simply enjoy people as they are and let whatever happens…happen.
While there may be nothing inherently wrong with either approach, each may have their opinion. The issue arises when the two opinions clash and the pair of hearts are not on the same script which results in broken hearts and lost faith.
At the end of the evening Summer tells Tom they are just friends but she finds him ‘interesting’ only to kiss him passionately in the copy room a few days later leaving Tom extremely confused but…satisfied. This starts the beginning of their ‘relationship’ which is always enthralling and exhilarating. Both hearts simply want to lose themselves into each other’s realities. However, it was always apparent that Tom loses himself more.
Summer eventually admits to Tom that she is not looking for anything serious, with a hesitating Tom saying that it is okay. Summer clearly enjoys Tom’s affection and personality and Tom clearly appreciates hers, although Tom is feeling more towards Summer than he letting on.
Tom may know what the dangers are of getting into this sort of relationship but sometimes we are willing to give up on stability and security for some happiness in the moment. We are willing to give up our need to ‘knowing’ for a sense of adventure. Even if it may be the foundations for our own heartbreak. After all, we are taught to live in the moment and enjoy the moment, not worry too much about the future.
But the future, and its consequences, will always arrive whether we want it to or not.
Summer and Tom continue to be in a ‘relationship’ and things are lovely between the pair. Tom reveals to Summer his passion for architecture and Summer encourages him to pursue it. Tom gets closer to Summer and believes he is getting to know her on a more intimate level than any other man has before. Tom is falling in love. But Summer’s tenderness always appears to be at an arm lengths away.
Love makes us blind towards reality and we begin seeing the things we want to see without acknowledging the truth.
Which leads to Tom actually wanting to know the truth between him and Summer. He wants to define the relationship which a positive step in any relationship.
But Tom is afraid to ask Summer about the technicalities of the relationship. He is afraid he may not receive the answer he desires and thus cause his to lose her. In life we are often afraid of the truth, its ‘like that bully we are forced to be friends with’.
In relationships though, we can save ourselves a lot of the heartache if we simply dive into the truth before wasting our time in an endeavour that will lead to your ultimate emotional destruction.
Tom braces himself with some courage and eventually does ask Summer about their ‘relationship’ and she simply responds with the fact that she does not know what they are and she does not care because she is happy. She asks Tom if he is happy and he claims that he is and the subject is dropped.
Tom did not get the answer he wants. He may be happy in the moment but Summer has simply protected herself by not agreeing to any sort of relationship.
An unlabelled relationship is something that many people enjoy. Labels make things too ‘serious’ for some people. And people do not want the commitment and it can be due to various reasons. Usually, the reason is that the person knows in their heart that they do not truly love this person even If they care deeply for them, enjoy their company and adore their affection. This may be fine if both people are on the same page. But if one is not, like Tom, it may be the cause of anxiety and worry particularly about losing them to someone else.
In relationships, labels are important after a certain period of time. Discussing the relationship is important. Be brave when encountering these conversations and save yourself the heartache. Don’t lead people on and do not allow yourself be led on by others. Ask for what you want and be ready to walk away if you do not get what you know you deserve. If you do not you can find yourself in seriously painful circumstances.
This point in punctuated on an occasion much later in their ‘relationship’ when Summer and Tom are in a bar. A man begins hitting on Summer. He is a creep and he mocks her for being with Tom. Summer shrugs it off but Tom eventually punches the man which results in Summer becoming angry at Tom for his behaviour. Tom finally loses his cool and berates Summer for calling him her ‘friend’. Tom says they are not ‘just friends’ and he also has a say in their relationship. Tom leaves Summer’s place only to have Summer come see him later that night to apologize. Tom then conceded that he does not need a label but just some consistency and that she won’t wake up tomorrow and feel differently about him. Summer says one of the most powerful lines in the film by saying that she cannot give him that and that nobody can.
Once again, Tom was told the truth but yet he continued to stay with Summer. He was happy after all. Perhaps in his heart he thought things would change even with the truth staring him in the face. We sometimes feel a similar hope in relationships, with thoughts that we can change people to fit our expectations. But we cannot. The truth is the truth. If something is not there…we cannot force it into existence no matter how we feel and Tom had to learn this the hard way.
The film actually opens with the break up. As we find Tom in his apartment simply breaking plates and needs to soothed by his younger sister. He tells her how they were simply sitting in a diner and Summer tells him that they should stop seeing each other, that they fight all the time and she does not know where it is going between them. Tom argues at first until she so casually mentions how she loves the pancakes. He is upset with the ease she says the word ‘love’ towards her pancakes but not towards him. Tom then gets up to leave with Summer shouting to him that he is still her best friend.
Tom finally tells his sister that he does not want to get over her, he wants to get her back.
As the film alternates between the past and the present. We catch glimpses of the timeline later on when the two are separated. The contrast between the beginning and the end of the relationship is quite unsettling as we see how people change over time and how one person can have such a profound effect on somebody else.
We see Tom as a broken mess after losing Summer. Miserable and unwilling to move on, he attempts dating again but it culminates in him talking to his date about Summer, and how she was the only person in the universe who would make him happy. He tells his date that he always looking over the past wondering what he could have done differently to make things better.
His date reminds him that Summer never once cheated on him, never used him or told him anything that was not the truth. Tom dismisses this idea and the date ends poorly.
The past is the past and Tom cannot let it go. Combing over it with a fine toothed comb will not change anything and most answers and rationalisations that we uncover are not satisfying. We blame ourselves when our relationships fail and feel we needed to do something different in order to have saved it, but sometimes it is not our fault. Sometimes people are simply difficult to understand and predict. It is not a bad reflection of us but rather a true reflection of the person who left you.
He has become delusional in his thoughts about Summer believing she is the only person who can make him happy. He is looking back at relationship through a very narrow lens and only wants to remember the good times while continuing to ignore reality.
Sometimes we have felt this very thing.
We attach ourselves to the past and become unwilling to let it go because we cannot envision a better future for ourselves. We always have this sliver of hope that we can bring back the past but we cannot.
I suppose the films and media have always shown us that the hero gets the girl….but films is not real life…they are just brainwashing material used to turn us off to reality.
P.S. Never make your past relationships the focus of a conversation on a first date. Never a good idea.
Sometimes giving someone a second chance is like giving them another bullet for their gun because they missed you the first time
Sometime after break-up, Tom finds himself on a train travelling to a co-workers wedding. He spots Summer sitting alone in one of the seats. Summer speaks to him revealing they are travelling to the same destination. Tom is initially uncomfortable with her presence but eventually agrees to her spontaneous invitation for coffee.
The past seems to have come back to the present. The pair find themselves enjoying each other’s company once more and Tom is happy again.
Summer eventually invites him a party in a few days’ time. Tom accepts the invitation and they take the train back home with Summer sleeping on Tom’s shoulder all the way back.
Tom believes fate has brought them back together. Tom believes he has a second chance. But Summer is just being Summer. Enjoying Tom’s company…
What follows at the party is the best scene of the film.
Tom heads to Summers home and as he ascends the stairs the screen cuts in two and we see a side by side comparison
of Tom’s expectations and reality.
Towards the end of the scene, reality pushes expectations aside.
Only reality remains.
The reality that Tom sees an engagement ring on Summer’s finger. Tom simply rushes out of the apartment, down the stairs into the street. He has tears in his eyes and looks devastated. He stands in the middle of the street and we see the colour fade, the buildings being erased, the street being erased and only a shadow of Tom remains until he too is removed to reveal a grey splotch of emptiness.
Tom is lost.
Tom is broken.
His world that he built with Summer in his heart is shattered and has faded away into nothing. The world around him, and himself is no more.
Unhappiness arises when reality does not meet our expectations. Putting expectations onto people is a very dangerous thing. However, it is something we are all guilty of. In this case, Tom really got the hard end of the deal. Summer may have been at fault, knowing how Tom felt towards her and still invited him to her party.
Tom simply expected more than he got. He was blinded by love once more. And the visuals depicted of his heart break, with the entire world fading out of existence is reminiscent of emotions I myself have felt and perhaps you have felt it too. It feels like there is really is nothing left in the world except a dreadful mess. That you want to erase yourself from existence so you do not have to experience another
day of it.
It is devastating to see.
Tom as a total wreck. He stays in his nightgown, he drinks oceans of booze and he berates couples in the street. He is grouchy and looks dreadful. He returns to work hung-over and has a break down in the office.
At this point we see Tom’s lowest point. He has abandoned the idea of love. He is broken hearted and can no longer see any light in the world. He believes love is fake, fate is a lie and soul mates are myths.
It is easy to lose faith in the world when something as tragic as this occurs in our life. To close ourselves off, to become pessimistic is far easier than to believe in something when your faith has been shattered.
Perhaps it is a good thing he is going through this devastation. Many people simply ignore their emotions and try to be unbreakable to just keep going. They never jump right into their emotions and experience it fully. They don’t fall apart as they should and in so doing, they never learn and never grow.
But of course…once a man is at his lowest point…he is capable of his greatest change.
Tom’s sister tells him that she does not believe Summer was the one. She reminds him that when he looks into the past again, that he should take a closer look and not ONLY remember the good times. As we see Tom flash back to memories when he was together with Summer but she was unpleasantly cold towards him. We notice that the signs were there for a while. Tom simply looked exclusively at the good.
People are not perfect. Do not place anybody on a pedestal. We are all humans and all have flaws. When remembering the past experiences, the good memories will always cause our heart to falter. Take closer looks into people. Notice their flaws. Their human qualities. The reasons that they may not have been ideal for you. The reasons that made you frustrated or angry towards them. Remember that bad things in order to give yourself some perspective.
Remember…the past was not the only opportunity for you to find happiness.
Tom decides to get up and start doing something for himself. He begins clearing up his apartment. He throws himself into architecture. His passion. He sketches and reads more. He quits his old job and chooses a new focus. He begins looking for new work doing the thing he loves most.
Tom is finally thinking of himself and NOT Summer.
It may have taken him some time and it may take us some time as well.
In the end the only person we have in our life is the person staring back at us in the mirror. You are stuck with yourself until the end of time. Why ruin yourself over the pain caused by another? Show yourself and the world that you will not be run down by the past. That you are more than capable of standing up and becoming a better person for yourself and nobody else. Do this and you will find reason to wake up in the morning and more important reasons to live your life instead of crying your days away.
Tom is sitting on the park bench. A spot he and Summer used to frequent when they were together. Summer comes by as a married woman. They share some conversation with Tom feeling uncomfortable and Summer being her warm self.
Tom however questions Summer on how she got married since she never believed in love.
Summer says she was also surprised and says that one day she just woke up and she knew what she was never sure of with Tom.
Tom is visibly upset by this and tells her that he no longer believes in true love and soul mates etc.
But Summer laughs at this and says that she was in a restaurant reading when a man just came up to speak to her and now he is her husband.
She continues to say that what if she had went to movies, went somewhere else for lunch or went 10 minutes later, she would not have met the man and they may never have married. Summer says it was meant to be, it was fate, and that Tom was right about true love and fate and soul mates, it was just not HER that he was right about.
Tom remains silent as Summer gets up to walk away as Tom shouts that he is truly happy for her marriage and hopes she is happy. Summer smiles back at him.
Summer provides Tom with an interesting perspective. Tom was never wrong in his beliefs, but rather wrong about the person he projected his beliefs on.
When someone hurts us, we may believe that there is something wrong with the world, or with ourselves. We may feel we will never love again and that world is broken.
When we project our expectation of love onto other people we are potentially setting ourselves up for heartbreak. We cannot expect others to think and act the way we would because everyone is different living in their own little worlds doing what they believe is best.
We also forget that when these things happen, they need to be seen as isolated incidents. As things that simply happen and are out of our control for the most part. We are only human.
We cannot project these isolated incidents onto other people, onto ourselves and the world. We need to choose not to let these things define us or our reality. We control that perspective. We control our reality.
We cannot allow such incidents to have such a profound effect on our life. Our life is worth far more than these isolated events.
Let experiences just be…experiences. Experience them, feel them fully, suffer if you must, fall apart if you must…but remember to not let it define you.
And I believe Tom is beginning to realise this very fact.
The film closes with Tom arriving for a job interview where he meets a beautiful woman also interviewing. They chat for a while and appear to have good chemistry and a tinge of attraction between them. As Tom walks into the office he argues with himself about the idea of fate and destiny and true love and realizes he cannot pass up the opportunity. He runs back to ask her out and she ultimately agrees.
He discovers the woman’s name is Autumn.
A tongue in cheek ending for Tom.
Tom was able to leave Summer behind and look towards the future and not be afraid of it. Hopefully he won’t make the same mistakes as before.
In real life we may not meet our next love so quickly. But it is important to keep in mind that we should not be afraid to go after something or someone we really want and that love is always around the corner.
There may have been times in our lives where we have been a Tom. People who go through life in relationships hoping it will work out and then become heartbroken when it does not.
Or perhaps you have been a Summer, never wishing to define the relationship as you spend too much time wondering if this is really the right person for you only to end up hurting them when you realize they are not.
Neither are inherently good or bad people. People are just people flowing through life doing what they feel is best based on their perception of the world.
The important lies within the communication between the two people. The understanding between them. Knowing the consequences of entering a relationship with potentially no future.
Perhaps the hearts of men and women simpl
y crave love and affection.
Always keep in mind that love does NOT hurt. Rejection hurts, loneliness hurts, jealousy hurts and loss hurts.
Let us not be afraid of love as love is the most beautiful thing we as human beings can experience.
Just ensure that you do not let someone else define your existence, lest you find yourself becoming the architect of your own destruction.
500 Days of Summer shows a beautiful but sad depiction of love, people change and so do we, but most importantly it showed us that no matter what…we should never give up on finding love.