Director: Mark Webb Release date: 2 September Romantic comedy. Two words that often have cinema goers either rolling their eyes or running for the hills. At their best rom coms can be uplifting, life-affirming affairs. At worst they’re Matthew McConaughey movies. Man’s been coasting off Dazed and Confused for years. More cynical people than I have listed the reasons to say “I love you” as varied as out of boredom, economic hardship or the prospect of butt sex. Horses for courses, but no matter what side of the fence you sit on, (500) Days of Summer is a movie that speaks to everyone on some level. The basic premise treads familiar ground: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy tries to get girl back. In this case, the boy is the idealistic greeting card writer Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The object of his adoration is the free-spirited Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). Tom and Summer are two very different people when it comes to matters of the heart. Smiths fan Tom is a firm believer in true love, the missing piece of the puzzle. The one. Summer on the other hand believes that love is a fantasy. A childhood witnessing the disintegration of her parents’ marriage shattered her romanticism early and she simply wants to enjoy life while she’s young. A moment which reveals their mutual love of The Smiths after days of Tom admiring and idolising Summer from afar convinces him that she could very well be the one. The movie begins with Tom and Summer’s break up. Rather a down note for a rom com, but as the opening narration tells us, “this is not a love story.” The movie flashes backwards and forwards over the course of their relationship. It’s a cunning devise, which highlights the disintegration of their relationship. Impossibly perfect moments from those first heady days are at times abruptly cut with scenes from further down the line. What was once cute becomes painfully uncomfortable, with one person clawing for validation from the other and being met with increasing detachment. At times, it’s heart-wrenching to watch and excruciatingly familiar. Anyone who doesn’t flinch at the words: “You’re still my best friend” has never been in love. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is perfectly cast as the idealistic, lovelorn Tom. He has a wide-eyed optimism and sensitivity to him that is incredibly appealing, an essential quality for any romantic lead. He manages this without being saccharine, and despite an arguable selfish streak to his character. The movie yo yos Tom from the depths of his despair, to his first treasured moments with the woman he loves and back again. We see his exuberance give way to cynicism and pain, and back again. His frustrations become ours, thanks to Gordon-Levitt’s excellent performance. If I were Zooey Deschanel, I’d be slightly miffed that the best description critics can ever muster is “quirky.” I’ve read enough column inches devoted to her which contain the inevitable “quirky female lead” reference. There’s more to her than quirks. She has a difficult time making Summer quite so likeable, especially at the points where her coldness is maddening, and her treatment of Tom makes you genuinely angry. She’s at once warm and distant. Moments after telling Tom she isn’t looking for anything serious, she reaches for his hand. She can say that she loves pancakes and The Smiths, but anything further and the walls come up. But that’s people, that’s life and she carves out an independent, strong and well- rounded character from Summer. First-time director Mark Webb has obvious visual flare. The former music promo director uses everything from clever splitscreen devices to French cinema pastiches and even throws in an unforgettable song and dance number. The morning after strut to work has never been so well captured. Supporting cast is excellent. Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Gubler give noteworthy turns as Tom’s single and attached (respectively) friends McKenzie and Paul, as does Chloë Moretz as Tom’s sister Rachel. There are some traditions of the rom com even this off-beat gem can’t shake off. For example, the minute Summer catches onto Tom’s previous training as an architect you just know that is what’s going to get him out of his pining funk. The new lover spurring the stagnating man to action is a common screenplay conceit, but it can also true in life and is therefore forgivable. And this movie will forever go on record as the first time I’ve ever heard the song “She’s Like The Wind” and not wanted to kill someone. No bad thing. (500) Days of Summer is a movie for anyone who’s seen their still beating heart crushed under someone’s heel. So, that’s everyone by my count. But even without such melodramatic generalisations, it’s a movie for anyone who has loved, lost or not been quite sure. It’s a wakeup call for the lovelorn everywhere to take a closer look at their great loves and question how perfect and compatible they really were. The film skirts with the serious and the whimsical with a light, but often moving touch. Both leads are likeable and identifiable. These are roles that throughout life we will all play. While (500) Days of Summer might not polish our tarnished notion of romance, it’s a beautiful, uplifting and honest examination of modern love and romance. For better or for worse.