The Student Media Site of William Clarke College

We Are

The Student Media Site of William Clarke College

We Are

The Student Media Site of William Clarke College

We Are

500 Days of Summer: The Anti-Romcom

Image Credit: Canva Commons

Last Valentine’s Day, Hope R wrote a wonderfully insightful article about the rom-com genre, criticising their misogynistic tendencies and outdated tropes. It’s one you should certainly read before this one if you haven’t already. It got me thinking: ‘Is there a film that addresses these critiques?’. Turns out, that’s what Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber set out to do. Whilst planning to write a straightforward rom-com, Neustadter got broken up. He then realised his perception of romance had been corrupted by years of film & pop-culture influence. They shifted their film to address this problem that they had no doubt affected millions more.


This is how we received: 500 days of Summer.




The film follows Tom Hansen, an office worker who dreams of becoming an architect and, in the words of the film, ‘grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met his “soulmate.” This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misreading of the movie, “The Graduate.”’. He meets Summer Finn, a relaxed, considerate woman who’s trying to find her place in life and has a cynical view on the notion of ‘true love’.  The film has Tom reflecting on the relationship he has with Summer that ends poorly and how he moves forward. It opens with their break-up, and afterwards uses a non-linear approach to storytelling to jump around the timeline of their relationship, all in the firm perspective of Tom. After Summer moves to Tom’s office, he’s quick to fall in love with her. This is established in an infamous scene where Summer compliments his taste in music, saying she loves The Smiths. This, among many other examples, displays Tom’s twisted perceptions of love. Summer doesn’t idealize the lyrics of the songs; she just likes the songs. However, Tom, who does idealise & romanticise them, takes that as a sign that they’re meant to be. An idea that everyone around him scolds him for.


Just because a cute girl likes the same Bizarro crap as you, doesn’t make her your soulmate’ Rachel, Tom’s sister.


Another example is displayed by the way Tom begins talking about Summer in the film once he believes he’s in love. He compliments her smile, knees, laugh, heart-shaped birthmark, and other physical attributes. It’s here we see the biggest issue of Tom not seeing Summer as a human, just as an idea or some dream. Not taking the time to hear what she wants out of life or him. She states very clearly that she does not believe in true love and initiates the relationship looking for something casual. Tom ignores her, making their relationship miserable.


‘I don’t feel comfortable being anyone’s anything’ -Summer, less than 20 minutes into the film


After a crucial scene where Tom beats up a man in a bar to ‘defend Summer’s pride’, it’s made clear that neither of them knows what love is. This is where they feel stuck together, with Tom still romanticising these times and Summer still caring about Tom. This is until Summer makes up her mind upon watching (and not misreading) ‘The Graduation’ with Tom, where we return to the beginning where Summer breaks up with him, something he doesn’t understand. Tom spends weeks reeling from the aftermath, still yet to learn anything. Months later Tom finds out that Summer got engaged.


After Tom’s initial upset, he finally truly re-evaluates their relationship. Earlier scenes are repeated, but now we see the bigger picture outside of Tom’s romanticising, for which I’ve provided an excerpt of the script.


Tom and Summer are having a picnic. If it looks familiar, it’s cause we saw them here on page 7. The day it all, finally, fell apart.

Tom and Summer shopping at the market. Unless we were looking for trouble we wouldn’t see any. But since we are now, we might notice she lags behind him as they walk through the aisles. His hands are in his pockets. He’s bored. She’s distant. But only if we’re really looking.


Some people argue the film should’ve shown more of Summer’s perspective, and not doing so vilified Summer. I disagree as that would make the message of the film just about as subtle as a bull in a china shop. Whilst for most people it’s clear from the very beginning that Tom’s philosophy is flawed, the audience still discovers the full extent of Tom’s misguidedness as he discovers it towards the end of the film, paving the way for his growth. If people don’t understand that, it’s not the film’s fault they have no media literacy. After this, he finally decides to work hard on himself and pursue his architectural dream, not concerned about his romantic status. Tom and Summer see each other one last time, where Summer confirms she now understands love, enough to know it was never something she felt with him. Tom doesn’t lash out as he probably would’ve 15 minutes earlier in the film. He’s accepted it now.



The film is not anti-love; it ends with Summer finding love, just not in Tom. And Tom learns to work on himself and understand love better, meeting a girl who’s also pursuing architecture right towards the end that makes it clear his approach is not the same as it was. its statement is clear: Love is ambiguous and hard to truly define and harder to set expectations for. The picture in our head of how things are supposed to be will be our own downfall and life doesn’t give us clear-cut miracles or soulmates. But life gives us opportunities and coincidences we can make into our own miracles. You just can’t force anything.


So, yeah, it could be worse for those of you upset celebrating Valentine’s Day alone.


You could love The Smiths.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *