- We never remember in chronological order, especially when we’re going back over a failed romance. We start near the end, and then hop around between the times that were good and the times that left pain. People always say “start at the beginning,” but we didn’t know at the time it was the beginning. "500 Days of Summer" is a movie that works that way.
- (500) Days of Summer is another entry in a bizarre trend of films expecting a medal and a cookie for recognizing romcom clichés and concluding that relationships are difficult (see also: He's Just Not That Into You, Whatever Works, the upcoming Paper Heart, and the narrative distractions from the raw emotional power of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), respectively, although there is, admittedly, some instinct that makes you want to play along with this one. You'd like nothing more than some assurance that the smug asshole hitting on the protag's girlfriend will get punched in the mouth--but attendant to that is a peculiar desire to see said asshole defy convention by rising up from the floor and slugging the guy right back. Each of these scenarios plays out in (500) Days of Summer: in an admirable attempt to strike at both the base of the spine and the depths of the brain, hopeless romanticism shares time with intellectual cynicism without ever pretending they can be truly reconciled in matters of romance.
The harsh truth is that in most relationships that end, by the time they are over, one partner is much less invested than the other. Think about every time that you’ve broken up with someone; that’s how the person who broke up with you felt about you. Ouch. To complicate things, Tom’s desire to be an architect is stalled, possibly by his own unexpected happiness with Summer. In a scene when Tom honestly examines when “the end” of his relationship started, he realizes it was at a viewing of “The Graduate”. He may not be certain why, but we know that Summer crying means that the ending reminded her that they may be happy now, but the future is very uncertain and not exactly favorable. Ironically, her act of pulling away forces him to abandon his crappy job and start doing what he loves. Maybe she knew that he was complacent with her and was trying to motivate him in the only way possible. Maybe she really didn’t think about him all that much. Either way, the cathartic act of crushing his hopes of love enabled him to grow in his career dreams, and perhaps toward healing love with someone he has more in common with in the end. The journey he takes is at times funny, sad, romantic and brutal.
In retrospect, the more I think about it, the more I think “(500) Days of Summer isn’t just a quirky film, but a brave, smart film about growth, potential, and the importance of having relationships, not just the ones that succeed.