500 Days of Summer

Summer of love?

Although it bills itself as an anti-romantic comedy, 500 Days of Summer is likely to be one of the most delightful and surprisingly uplifting films you see this year. Not only are its two leads, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, totally charming in their roles, but writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber and director Marc Webb have constructed a film that’s as clever as it is enjoyable.

Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is a disillusioned greetings card writer who, despite the heartwarming sentiments he pens ever day, has yet to find love. When he falls for his new work colleague Summer (Deschanel) he thinks he may have found the one, only to discover that she doesn’t believe in destiny and wants to keep their relationship casual. As his feelings for Summer deepen, Tom is convinced he can prove they are soul mates – but is he heading for a happy ending or a broken heart?

As the narrative flashes forwards and back through the 500 days of Tom’s involvement with Summer – like his memories of her they come in non-chronological bursts, some of them rosy, some of them not – so the story slowly reveals itself through a colourful mix of flashbacks, animated sequences and even a musical number. In the wrong hands this could have been a raggedy hotchpotch of ideas, instead all involved have pulled together to create a savvy and intelligent reminder that life isn’t necessarily going to be like the movies and that love can bloody hurt.

It’s a bittersweet premise that works precisely because it finds the perfect balance between breezy humour (Tom’s sardonic narration, the quirky contrasts between the sunny and shadowy aspects of romance) and real human drama (Tom’s slow and painful realisation that Summer may not be the girl of his dreams). Music video director Webb handles both sides of the story with a natural and effortless style and it’s hard to believe this is his first time behind a movie camera. His two stars are also perfect in their roles; Deschanel capturing the vulnerability and independence of the cute yet cynical Summer, while Tom is deeply sympathetic as the emotional man who falls head over heelsand ends up flat on his face. Indeed, as he struggles with the realities of modern romance, like a Woody Allen for the digital age, you can’t help but root for him to find the happiness he craves even though it may not be with the person he wants.

Original, quirky and utterly delightful, 500 Days of Summer is a ray of genuine cinematic sunshine coming at the end of a blockbuster season that’s been clouded with generic tosh. And for that reason alone, it deserves the highest praise.

5 stars

Read Interview with Stars Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Stars Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Director Marc Webb
Scott Neustadter & Michael Weber
Certificate 12A
Distributor 20th Century Fox
Running Time 1hr 35mins
Opens September 2