Sunday, December 9, 2012

"(500) Days of Summer": Love Yourself, Maybe

  So, it's been a long while since I've written about a movie, and I rewatched "(500) Days of Summer" today, one of my top 5 favorite movies ever probably, and was struck (as I always am) by its emotional and philosophical depth. I thought it was worth talking about. Also, if you have not seen the movie, GO WATCH IT NOW. The remainder of this essay's gonna assume you've seen it, so SPOILERS ABOUND. (This is my own interpretation. If you disagree, that's cool, let me know what YOU think.)
  Right off the bat, we learn Tom's problem: "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.'" And this, in essence, is the conflict of the film: the existence and nature of love. This movie provides no easy answers, either; it has one of the most ambiguous endings of any film I've ever seen.
  We are taken through the disintegration of Tom and Summer's relationship, and we are shown Tom's misery. We get a very distinct and simple dichotomy of emotions: happy Tom = things are good with Summer, sad Tom = things are bad with Summer. The lesson we get is that Tom's problems all come from the fact that he has decided to define himself by his relationship with this girl, and that's why we see such a lack of consistency in his emotions. In fact, it really extends far before he ever met her; he's always defined himself by whether or not he has found love, and his old happiness was dependent completely on his hopeless romanticism. The fact is that Tom Hansen is a man of my own kind; he's in love with love itself.
  The first time we see Tom feeling not just happy, but also optimistic and independent, is when he finally quits his job at the greeting card company and slowly puts his life back together. He goes back to architecture and goes to look for jobs. In other words, HE FINDS HIMSELF. The lesson to be found is that defining yourself by external factors, people, relationships, anything, can only lead to misery, or at least inconsistency; what will really give you happiness is when you find yourself, when you are a strong and independent person, and everything else comes second to that. (Say it with me: "I'm a strong independent black woman, and I don't need no man!")
  But then we see Summer, and she's happier than she's been at any other point in the movie, all because she finally gave up her precious "independence" to settle down with someone else. "You didn't wanna be anyone's girlfriend, and now you're someone's wife," Tom says. And in the end, Tom goes after this other girl, Autumn, too. But we don't see if he ends up happy or not, just that he tried again.
  So what lesson are we supposed to take away?
  I think the lesson is that you have to know who you are and love yourself before you can let go of your inhibitions and really love someone else, but, after you get to the point where you truly love yourself, it's okay to take that risk, that leap of faith, and love someone else too. Of course, the lesson could also be that people who are happy in love have just immersed themselves in their own ignorant bliss and will never really find a consistent source of happiness, and, as Summer says, love doesn't exist, it's just fantasy. Or that love exists, and it's every bit as good as all the pop music and movies and hopeless romantics make it out to be, and those people that don't believe it will eventually discover it themselves. Or it could just be that one should never lose hope, because things always work out in the end, and fate really exists and time heals everything, or something cliched like that.
  I would suggest that you watch the movie and decide for yourself, but that you and your happiness should always be independent of other people. It's okay to love someone else, but your happiness shouldn't depend on that person loving you back. I'm worse than most at this, but I'm trying too. Be your own person first.
What a wonderful film.
- Adarsh Nednur

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