500 Days of Blue

500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Blue: How Color Transformed 500 Days of Summer’s Heartwrenching Story

You never wanted to be someone’s girlfriend, and now you’re someone’s wife.

Horror comes in different forms. For some, it’s gore, demons, and death. For others, it’s falling in love with someone, knowing the other person will never want you back, and then watching them be with someone else.

Unfortunately for Hopeless Romantic Tom Hansen, this is his reality.

When Tom meets I’m Not Looking For Anything Serious Summer, his world changes. From his dull, lonesome life to a vibrant, technicolor universe, Tom encompasses himself in Summer’s pessimistic world.

For those who have not seen ‘500 Days of Summer,’ consider yourself lucky. This heartbreaking, all-too-familiar tale takes viewers through 500 days of Tom Hansen meeting, loving, and hating Summer. From the start, the film reveals what happens to Tom and Summer’s relationship. While she clearly states throughout the movie that she is not looking for anything serious, Tom persists in his ever-growing interest in her, hoping she will change her mind. Unsurprisingly, she never changes her mind and eventually ends their situationship but wants to continue their friendship. 

(500) Days of Summer movie poster
(500) Days of Summer movie poster

Aside from his delusion and her leading him on, film director Marc Webb creates the ultimate puppy-love-to-loathing pipeline using shades of blue and blue hues. Strategically placing color in film is not a new concept, but when pointed out, it transforms how one watches the movie. Directors purposefully use it to evoke emotion, whether or not the viewer realizes it.

Color associations vary depending on the context. Red often symbolizes love, energy, and danger. Yellow represents happiness, optimism, and caution. Blue can symbolize serenity, trust, calmness, and stability; one can also associate the color with sorrow, lethargy, and apathy. The duality of how people interpret blue is similar to how Tom views Summer at different parts of the film. In one scene, he is calling her crude names, but later, he is singing and dancing in a flash mob, thinking about her.

So, how does color impact the movie’s outcome if the viewer already knows the ending from the beginning?

The Different Shades of Summer

One of the many wondrous things about filmography is how the most minor, most inconspicuous details have the heaviest punch and strongest support to the plot. Though Summer’s ranging shades of blue are a minute detail, they contribute to Tom and Summer’s inevitable downfall.

Blue repeatedly appears throughout the movie. From the opening scene, featuring a side-by-side montage of two kids—presumably Tom and Summer—she is wearing blue. When they meet for the first time and build their relationship, her outfits always involve some shade of blue, usually light and pastel blues with white. These lighter colors represent their relationship status: calm, stable, and pure.

Still of Tom and Summer’s baby montage from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009.
Still of Tom and Summer’s baby montage from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009. 

Her apparel darkens to dark blues, greys, and black as their relationship progresses and fights become frequent. But Tom’s outfits remain neutral throughout the 500 days, even during his delusion and heartbreak. At Summer’s party—the party Tom later finds out is for her engagement—she is back to wearing white and blue.

Day 1: the first day Tom meets Summer. She is new to the office, and Tom and his friends gossip and share rumors about her. During a meeting, Summer is formally introduced to the team; this is the moment Tom’s world changes. In this scene, Summer wears a white shirt, blue skirt, blue hair bow, and a blue butterfly pin on her shirt. While Tom—and most of his co-workers—wear neutral colors and darker tones. This stark contrast illuminates Summer and visualizes how Tom sees her: an angel sent down from Heaven.

Still of Tom meeting Summer from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009.
Still of Tom meeting Summer from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009. 

On Day 4, Tom and Summer are alone in the elevator. Headphones in and dull clothes on, Tom stands next to bright and shining Summer as she tells him how she loves The Smiths. Stunned beyond belief, Tom watches her exit the elevator as if every puzzle piece clicked into place. Summer’s aura radiates serenity and stability in this iconic scene—before all Hell breaks loose. 

Still of the Elevator Scene from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009.
Still of the Elevator Scene from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009. 

The immediate next scene focuses on pinks and purples; this is the only time in the movie where these colors are the focal point. As pink is associated with love and passion, this minor detail points to Tom's immediate infatuation with Summer. Over the next 100 days, Summer’s closet color scheme rarely changes. Aside from her declaring that she is not looking for a relationship, and he deep down wants one with her but agrees anyway, their relationship is relatively calm and stable.

The first time Tom and Summer are intimate is the first glimpse viewers get into Tom’s true delusion. The following day, he had a pep in his step and a glow on his skin. While walking through the streets, a flash mob appears, and he is the star of the show, singing and dancing along. Even a cartoon bluebird flies to his fingers during his spontaneous choreographic number. All the dancers are wearing shades of blue, a nod to Tom living in Summer’s blue world.

Still of Tom’s flash mob from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009.
Still of Tom’s flash mob from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009. 

All good things ended, and their relationship was no exception. 

Tom’s Case of the Summer Blues

Day 34: In line with their casual relationship, Tom and Summer casually walk around IKEA, playing a game where they pretend their kitchen sink broke; Summer tags along with this joke in her light blue and neutral-toned outfit. While this scene may portray her falling in love, it is one of many examples of her playing house when she sees fit.

Day 282: Many months later, Tom and Summer saunter through IKEA again, and he attempts the same broken sink game. Summer’s irritated reaction denotes that she is becoming closed off. Not only do her facial expressions and body language reveal this to the viewer, but her clothing is significantly darker. She wears an uncharacteristically dark blue, almost black coat. Nearly a week later, they go to the movies and the record store, where she noticeably gets annoyed with Tom. Here, she wears a dark green jacket with other dark accents of blue and black. But it all comes tumbling down when they go to dinner, and Summer declares they are just better as friends.

Ikea visit
Sad Ikea visit

Stills of Tom and Summer’s IKEA visit from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009.

After not seeing Summer in over 100 days, he sees her for the first time on a train at the same party she attends. They rekindle their friendship, though his delusion and her lack of clear communication send extremely troubling missed signals on both ends. In hindsight, Summer wearing light blues should have been a red flag, considering she and Tom were on rocky terms before this reconnection. However, it was a subtle indication of her undisclosed fiancé; she only wears light blues and white when in a relationship (or, in Tom’s case, a situationship).

The Horrid Day 408 showcases a side-by-side montage of how Summer’s party goes, with Tom’s expectation on the left and the crushing reality on the right. For an unknown reason, Summer fails to clarify her party is for her engagement. In traditional Summer fashion—and because she is happy and in a relationship—her clothing is head-to-toe white and blue, leading the viewer to believe she might fall again for Tom. To his demise, she shows off her ring with her new man by her side, revealing Tom’s agonizing reality.

Still of Tom’s expectations versus reality from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009.
Still of Tom’s expectations versus reality from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009. 

In the final days of Summer, after Tom has spent weeks working on himself and pursuing a new career in architecture—something she always encouraged him to do—they unexpectedly meet again in his favorite spot in the city. Tom attempts to get closure from Summer, asking what made her change her mind. To this, she says, “I woke up one day, and I knew.” He wishes her happiness, though, based on the color of her outfit, her marriage is far from stable and calm. Summer wears a muted blue that is far from her engagement party blue. It is reminiscent of the colors she wore when her and Tom’s relationship began to fall apart.

Still of the final scene from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009.
Still of the final scene from the film 500 Days of Summer, 2009. 

“500 Days of Summer” is a brilliantly honest and brutal story that embodies the conversation of perception and truth: three is his truth, her truth, and the truth. This film is from Tom’s perspective, and while it paints Summer in an angelic, positive light, it also frames the story to make her seem like the ultimate bad guy. Regardless of who blames whom, what the viewer knows for sure is that the relationship is doomed from the start. His feelings versus her feelings on love counteracted any fate there might have been. Marc Webb’s placement of blue throughout the movie compliments Tom and Summer’s what would have been a love story. The slow gradient of Summer’s light blue to dark grey outfits guides an attentive and esoteric watcher through each unfortunate step of the relationship. 

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