(500) Days of Summer

“(500) Days of Summer” is not standard romantic comedy fare. There are some amusing moments but they are more warm or touching rather than funny.

Zooey Deschanel is a delight as the film’s eponymous romantic focus. She brings a light quirkiness to the role that is very appealing. It’s easy to see why the protagonist, Tom, falls for her.

Unlike many romantic comedies, the protagonist is a guy and the story is told from his perspective. The film is written by two men and directed by another. The movie has a far from a macho take on romance though.

This may be appropriate as men tend be more romantic than generally given credit for. Contrary to common wisdom, on average, men tend to fall in love faster than women. Also men tend to suffer more after a break-up. I suspect there might be an evolutionary drive for women for fall in love later: women historically (think from hunter-gatherer times up until a few decades ago) bore a huge risk if they fell pregnant to a man not committed to them. From this perspective, not falling in love too quickly is a sensible precautionary measure. Men suffer more after a break-up probably because in losing their partner they typically also lose their best friend. Women tend to have a stronger support network of friends to get them through.

We certainly see Tom suffer through his break-up, despite the support of his friends. Very sweetly, he gets the most support from his baby sister. The wisdom she has gleaned from her high school years helps him work through the end of his relationship.

An appealing part of the movie is that the story is told out of sequence. The memories of the romance are played out in the way that they might be during a break-up – Tom’s mind flashes from the romantic beginning to the eventual disintegration of their relationship. Some events are revisited in his memory – romantic moments hold hints of trouble when analysed in retrospect.

I saw a reviewer criticise the movie for not being cynical enough and he objected to the ending’s ultimately optimistic view of love. This might say more about the reviewer’s love life that it does about the film. For me though, the message of the movie is that even though two people in a partnership will live out the same events, the experience of being in a relationship is ultimately a subjective and individual one. When these experiences diverge too widely, the result can be heart-break.

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