(This first. Listen to the clarity of the lower octave notes that Regina adds in waves and waves at the end of the chorus; you can tell it’s a quality grand piano just from how those notes resonate — an upright would sound much muddier at the low end. This is the song that plays on day (408) and it’s fucking perfect. Also, title from the lyrics.1)
It would appear that someone made a movie of my last relationship, and (500) Days of Summer is to #8 as Eternal Sunshine was to #4. The interesting part is that it was released early last year, during the relationship, and I wonder if it would have changed anything on my end, had I seen it then. And if she saw it now, would she understand things from my perspective? Or does she understand already? And if other people saw it, would they understand how one could unwittingly get their hopes up when things are so clear from the beginning?
I’m so glad Marc Webb, the director, treated the material with such grace. You can tell it was based on experience because the tender moments come from a real place (co-writer Scott Neustadter admitted Summer was based on a girl who “returned his kisses but not his ardor”). In an interview, Joseph Gordon-Levitt said, “I’ve had my heart broken before. Truly, truly broken. But when I look back at me in my heartbroken phase, it’s pretty hilarious, because it felt so much more extreme than it really was. One of the things I love about (500) Days of Summer is that it doesn’t make light of what we go through in romances [emphasis mine], but it is honest about it and shows it for what it is, which is often profoundly funny”, and I completely agree. I also appreciate the fact that they don’t villainize Summer because she never takes advantage of Tom2, and at the same time, it doesn’t make the agonizing days he goes through any less significant or difficult. In a profound way, it brings justification to everything I was (or am) going through. I suppose I’m just waiting for the punchline.
Watching it has left me feeling emotionally devastated lately, almost as if I’ve regressed, and lost months of progress. Perhaps it’s because seeing it was like seeing her again, reliving the entire thing from day one, from when we had met in the office. Like a recovering alcoholic falling off the wagon and taking his first sip in 5 years. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the message, and as well as the recommendation to watch the movie from Darren.
Even though I’ve tried to completely forget and move on, I’ve come to learn it’s not that easy. It’s almost as if you have to accept the all the memories, both good and bad, as much as you accept your own qualities and flaws.
The days, months, years you spend with someone significant will inevitably change and shape you. To deny them is to deny yourself.
I found it fascinating to trace the plot developments to parts of my own story. The entries I’ve written over the last two years echo the sentiments so strikingly in dialogue, songs, and voice-overs.
Things in blockquotes are either narrator voice-over or directors notes. I listed the events linearly too (even though the film is presented in non-linear fashion) for the sake of clarity. It’s also interesting to see how the calendar title cards change backgrounds, from bright and sunny, to red and simmering, to grey and bleak.
This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen, of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met “the one”.
From my entry The Penultimate Letter — “My whole life, I looked for someone like you. Someone who was capable of raising me to my potential, someone who was worthy of the love I have to offer. But even then, I never knew I was capable of a love that resonated so deeply in my person.”
- Rachel: Just ’cause some cute girl likes the same bizarro crap you do, that doesn’t make her your soul mate, Tom.
From my entry, What I Mean To Say — “Cause she loved The Mars Volta and Shane Watt as much as I do.”
The office is emptying out. Only a few people remain but Tom and Summer are two of them. Tom takes this opportunity to put a CD in his computer and play the song really loud. It’s “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths. No reaction from Summer. Tom turns it up. Still nothing. Tom turns it down, defeated.
From my entry, Good Times For A Change — “Before you start reading, play this song. It’s a Deftones cover of The Smiths’ song Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. There have been a few other artists who have done covers too, including Muse, but only Chino has the kind of raw emotion in his voice that matches Morrisey.”
- Summer: We’re young. We live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Might as well have fun while we can and save the serious stuff for later.
From my entry, Dead End Guy — [The second sentence]
- Summer: I just wanna tell you that, um, I’m not really looking for anything…serious. Is that okay?
- Tom: Yeah.
- Summer: ‘Cause some people kind of freak out when they hear that.
- Tom: No, not me.
From my entry, Lye and Vinegar — “I was told it was over before it started…”
(Yep, that’s a cartoon bird on his shoulder.)
It’s the greatest morning of all time! Tom walks down the street. Or, more accurately, Tom struts down the street. He’s pointing at people as he passes, winking, doing a little shuffle. He is the man.
From my entry, Lysergic Bliss — “There’s a tenderness that reaches deep within me, and burgeons forth to paint the world an intoxicating spectrum. It’s a world where every song is a journey, every chord is more dulcet than the last, and I don’t want to, I need to dance.”
- Tom: Yeah. Guys, look, Summer and I…we know how we feel. We don’t need to label it. “Boyfriend, girlfriend.” That stuff is very… juvenile.
From my entry, She Treads Softly — “So I told her not to hold anything back, because there’s nothing she can do, no boundaries we can define, to make me love her any less.”
There’s something about this moment, the way she sings along, the way her eyes close during certain notes, the way her smile rises and falls like she could cry at any minute from being overwhelmingly happy or just simply overwhelmed. Tom is powerless to stop his feelings for this girl.
Be Still My Heart — “Not that I let myself fall for her. My heart never gave me a choice.”
- Tom: I love her smile. I love her hair. I love her knees. l love this heart-shaped birthmark she has on her neck. I love the way she sometimes licks her lips before she talks. l love the sound of her laugh. l love the way she looks when she’s sleeping.
From my entry, What I Mean To Say —“The way she wore her hair differently every time I saw her. The way her cheeks would round so endearingly when she truly laughed. The way she could look beautiful wearing dresses, or jeans, or my old pajamas. The way the tantalizing golden down traveled along her lower back.”
- Tom: I love how she makes me feel. Like anything’s possible. Like, I don’t know…like life is worth it.
From my entry, Be Still My Heart — “It’s the way she makes me happy without trying. The way I’m filled with tenderness every time I feel the warmth of her skin against mine. The way her existence gives me hope for the rest of the world.”
- Tom: This is not how you treat your friend. Kissing in the copy room? Holding hands in IKEA? Shower sex? Come on! Friends, my balls!
From my entry, Unimportance and Mixed Signals — “…she said she never wanted a relationship with me, yet we ended up doing everything involved in a relationship, without any solid commitment on her end.” I’d say that the outburst Tom has, I never had. They were more implosions, a sucking in of my chest from the inside, where I’m left with a feeling of void.
- Tom: Look, we don’t have to put a label on it. That’s fine. I get it. But, you know, I just—I need some consistency.
From my entry, The End of the Affair — “I could never expect anything from her, the way I could expect things from a girlfriend. Never get upset at her for not staying the night, or not spending enough time with me. Every time we were together, I would wonder what her mood was and what level we were at for that particular day because it would change constantly.”
In close-up, Tom goes to hold Summer’s hand. But something happens. It could be a total coincidence, but just as his hand approaches hers (in slow-motion), she moves it away and keeps it at her side. Tom puts his hands in his pockets, unsure if there’s something to read in that.
From my entry, Pygmalion — “This ivory in my bed stares straight ahead when I kiss her…But this stone doesn’t smooth with wear, it crumbles and falls away.”
- Summer: I think we should stop seeing each other. I mean, this thing, what are we doing? Is this normal?
- Tom: Norm… I… I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m happy. Aren’t you happy?
- Summer: You’re happy?
- Tom: You’re not?
- Summer: All we do is argue.
From my entry, Follow Up — “…she didn’t like the conflicts we’d have, which she saw as a sign that we were incompatible”
- Tom: I don’t want to get over her. I want to get her back.
From my entry, Difficult Acceptance — “And yet, knowing this doesn’t make me feel any better, because it’s her that I want.”
- Tom: I HATE THIS SONG!
From my entry, The Song Will Be Mine — “I started doing this because none of my music is sacred anymore — every time I hear an old favourite, there’s a memory that’s associated with it”.
Also from my entry, Hide And Seek — “I let her in, I shared with her so many chords that stir up emotion in me, I rendered myself vulnerable, and now I can’t listen to some of them without thinking of her. It seems unfair that I gave her so much, that I sacrificed things I hold so dear and sacred in my heart, with nothing to show for it.”
- Tom: You know, on the one hand, I want to forget her. On the other hand, I know that she’s the only person in the entire universe that will make me happy.
From my entry, A Step Forward — “For a while now, people have been trying to set me up…My habitual disinterest came from the belief that no one could compare to the muse.”
- Tom: So now I keep going through every day in my mind, every second really. Wondering. What went wrong? Is it my fault? Could I have prevented it somehow?
From my entry, Not A Chance — “Without knowing whether or not it would have worked out had she given me the opportunity, I feel like I’ll always be left wondering.”
- Tom: I can’t get her out of my head, you know? I see her everywhere. She’s all I think about. And it’s horrible.
From my entry, Reminders of Love and Loss — “The truth is that it felt so right for so long, and it was wonderful when it worked. Which is why I still think of her when I close my eyes, and let my guard down.”
Tom walked to her apartment, intoxicated by the promise of the evening. He believed that this time his expectations would align with reality.
This was, by far, the most painful part of the movie, the one that resonated the most deeply, the scene that broke the streak. I’m glad they accomplished it so well in split-screen. Even though I lived through this dozens of times, I was never a good enough writer to put these feelings in words, and the closest was from my entry, Reminders of Love and Loss — “…she behaved with such detached indifference the last time she came over, when I was tearing my heart out trying not to grab and embrace her.”
- Tom: It’s…It’s these cards, and the movies, and the pop songs…They’re to blame for all the lies…and the heartache, everything.
From my entry, There Is No Such Thing As Love — “Hollywood would have us believe that love exists…But love doesn’t exist in real life, as much as I want to believe that it does.” Damn. I think it’s safe to say I knew exactly how Tom felt when he flipped out in that meeting.
And while I wish I could say that my ending was as clean as the one in the movie, it wasn’t. Instead of peaceful denouement, it dragged on for months, and that’s where the stories diverge. Things got complicated, messy, much more painful than they should have been, and I’m left stuck on (499).