Life Through the Lens: Perfect vision comes in hindsight

“This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront…this is not a love story.”

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“Hindsight is 20/20.” Is there a more cliche saying out there? The worst part of that saying is it is so true. The hardest part about having 20/20 vision in hindsight is the sheer irony of it: you can see things perfectly… after they’ve happened. It is absolute clarity and genuine understanding… but it is too late.

Life has taught me this lesson many times. I’d be lying if I said I operated daily with 20/20 vision. Sadly, much of my life has been lived in partial blindness. It is only when the corrective lenses of thoughtful reflection are involved that things tend to focus.

Not to be too literal, but I remember when I finally manned up and got actual glasses. I knew, in some part of my brain, that I needed glasses… but the other parts of my brain were fighting that diagnosis. Other people could see me squinting, but I played it off as “not that bad.” My parents approached with loving concern, but I promised it was “not that bad.” I honestly believed that ignoring it could last forever. My frame-free lifestyle could survive if I tried hard enough.

Driving was no picnic — literally swerving to miss half-a-dozen picnics on roadside parks. Class was increasingly difficult — not being able to see the board (or what classroom you just entered) has a way of catching up to you. I believe I even dated a girl for two months without catching a glimpse of her face. More and more, I was present but missed everything that happened in front of me. The signs were all there, but I literally couldn’t see them… or wouldn’t see them.

Long story short, I eventually got glasses. I fought it and fought it, but it was the best thing for me. It was a life-changing moment! Living in “the blur” may have felt safe or easy, but it was nothing compared to “true sight.” Now that I have seen things clearly, I would gladly wear swimming-goggles or an astronaut helmet if it would help me maintain my sight. You can’t go back to squinting after you’ve experienced pure-focus.

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“(500) Days of Summer” is a story about Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Tom was convinced and assured that he was in love. Tom was convinced and assured that she was the one. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) was everything he had ever wanted in a girl: same taste, same humor… she was perfect in every way… except for her annoying habit of telling him she “wasn’t interested in a relationship.” Other than that, it was the best time of Tom’s life.

The relationship seemed to have an expiration date, though. It started to go stale, and Tom seemed powerless to stop it. She was mad — Tom couldn’t fix it. She was sad — Tom couldn’t fix it. Time together became a stressor. Shared experiences became fuel for arguments instead of food for memories.

Although this was all true and undeniable… Tom was unwilling to give up. Maybe if he tried harder. Maybe if he held on longer. Others outside the relationship could see the deterioration and could advise all they wanted, but Tom knew that this was love and that she was the one. No matter his determination, though, it happened anyway. Summer was over.

This is a hard message to hear: some things are only seasonal. Certainty can be fraud. Love can be fleeting. Even the strongest of connections or feelings can be proven false.

A “Summer” always feels the same. It is, convincingly, valid and real. It is full of energy and affection. It is fresh and fun. Hours fly by and not simply pass. Time is irrelevant. The outside world tends to disappear, fading into nothing but this current “Summer.” The fact that other seasons even exist is nothing but fiction, nothing but fable. Things will never change! Then… you know… things change. You can’t always explain it. Before you know it, “Summer” is over.

The beauty of a seasonal relationship is impossible to see in the waning moments but as clear as day when the dust settles: for every “Summer” there is an “Autumn.” For every spot left empty there is now an available seat. Loss will never be easy or casual, but the knowledge that “Autumn” is destined to follow “Summer” should be of comfort.

If hindsight has taught me anything, it is this: “Summer” usually can’t hold a candle to a well-timed and perfectly surprising “Autumn.” What comes next is often better than what you just had.

Now 10-years old, “(500) Days of Summer” is a rare gem. It is a love-story, romantic to its core, but it refuses to drench everything with sap. It is real; it is gritty; it is appropriately cynical; it is hopelessly tender.

Director Marc Webb brings amazing comedy and sensitivity. For a genre so diluted and forgettable, Webb shatters convention and embraces the quirkiness that is love and relationships. The movie walks a very thin line between heightened imagination and ultra reality. Webb’s vision takes center stage in scenes like Tom’s musical number to Hall and Oates’s “You Make My Dreams” and the “Expectations vs. Reality” split-screen sequence.

Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber shine in this movie. Their words are fresh and honest. They come at love in a way so many of us have: blind and unprepared.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is hilarious and vulnerable as Tom. He is quick to be silly but also open to being fragile. I am usually not a fan of Zooey Deschanel, but this role perfectly suits her: aloof yet eccentric. She is distant yet exposed.

This movie expertly shows one of life’s toughest lessons: hindsight is 20/20.

“(500) Days of Summer” can be rented through Amazon and iTunes.

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REPORT CARD: “500 Days of Summer”

Grade: A

Comment: Unique in a genre of formulas and immitations

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