500 Days of Summer: Why Summer Leaves Tom

To preface, I have seen this movie maybe five or six times now and love everything about it. However I have always been somewhat confused as to why Summer goes off Tom and marries someone else at the end of the film. I believe it is meant to be somewhat ambiguous as we see this movie from the perspective of Tom, and as result, we the audience are meant to relate to his confusion and surprise of Summer’s change of mind. My brother and I watched it again and this time I watched out for any clues and foreshadowing early on as to why Summer leaves Tom. Here is my theory. The film is rich in color. Scenes are dominantly one color with many shades of that color surrounding it. Tom is brown/auburn and any other shades of this color. Here is an example:

…and another: http://imgur.com/dxtOJqG, and yet another: http://imgur.com/XHYECEA.

Whenever we see Tom, he is either wearing colors of this tone or his surrounding environment being dominantly brown. Toms eyes are brown also:


Summer on the other hand is blue. She dresses in blue, her surroundings are often depicted in blue:

…Another example: http://imgur.com/xhbQAZB), and another: http://imgur.com/ehEYG4K. This includes all tones of blue.

Her eyes are blue also:

Whenever Tom and Summer are dating and Tom is spending time with her, we can see the general surroundings of the scene become blue. This represents Tom being in Summer’s blue world. He is out of place and no matter how hard he tries to be part of it he can’t, because she is blue and he is brown. No matter how much they both want it to work and how much she invites him into her world, he wont be accepted because they are two very different people. Lets look at the morning after Summer and Tom have sex. The scene is of Tom dancing and singing his way through the streets and parks with everyone around him dancing alongside him. Everyone that dances alongside him are dressed in various shades and tones of blue, while he is dressed in his beige and brown colors. Even the bird is bright blue!


This is the moment Tom enters Summers world, hence everyone being in blue around him. But he doesn’t belong: he is brown, and she will always be blue.

The above scene is yet another scene among many that show how when Tom is dating Summer, he is in her blue world. In this case, even when she is in his apartment, which was brown in tone before they slept together, is now blue.

When they split up, the color palette goes back to how it was before they started dating:


The scene where Tom bumps into Summer on the train on the way to the wedding and has coffee with her shows their pre-dating color pallet.


Strong browns and auburns, because Tom is no longer in Summer’s world, and we are seeing the entire movie through his perspective. Again at the wedding we see Tom is wearing brown/auburn/beige while Summer is wearing blues.

I think it’s clear at this point in the movie Summer has become aware Tom does not belong in her life. However Tom has not realised the same, leading the movie to its most iconic scene: Expectations vs Reality.

This scene is dominated by their pre-dating colors as well as each of them wearing their respective blues and browns. The surroundings are brown because as much as Tom is trying, he is not in Summer’s world anymore. He is in his own. His own brown world.

The final scene of the film provides the most supportive argument for this theory. Tom attends an architecture interview. The building’s interior is brown:


Tom is finally in the right place in his life. His colors finally suit his path: to become an architect. It is also here where he meets his next love interest, Autumn. Autumn is already in his world. Her world is brown, just like his. Her eyes, hair and skin tone are all brown in color.


The main colors of the Autumn season are, as you know, browns/auburns/dark reds/ and beige.

The main colors of the Summer season are blues and greens.

Fergus Morton, Film Features Writer

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  1. Oh wow, that was an interesting post!! I’ve NEVER even thought about this from your point of view. Next time I’m gonna watch this movie, I’ll pay close attention to this. You’ve really put things into another perspective. Great post!!!! 🙂

  2. I love 500 Days of Summer as well, but I do not think that you have actually completely answered your own question here. As you pointed out in your intro, we are not meant to understand why Summer ultimately leaves Tom and ends up marrying the next guy she dates because this is a story told from the guy’s point of view. The implication is likely that Tom was always more in love with the idea of Summer than the reality of her, and she told him from the get-go that she did not really want to be together. However, the way she treats him at that wedding after their break-up, leading him on, is the ultimate indication that from the film’s point of view Summer is ultimately an unknowable character, dancing with Tom just because she felt like it. If you want to hazard a guess about her point of view, it’s worth remembering that Tom does not become the best possible version of himself until after the break-up. The version she knew was a shy guy who was too scared to pursue his dreams. What you’ve caught on to is honestly something I never noticed before, which is that the film uses blue and brown color designs to imply that Tom and Summer ultimately do not belong together. I don’t think that actually answers anything. I think that is more there to ultimately confirm what we already knew which is that these two will not end up together. It does not actually offer insight to Summer’s motivations, but it does confirm that her instincts were correct. It does also imply Tom will have a happy ending with Autumn, which is something I remember Marc Webb, JGL, and the writer’s debating on the dvd commentary, joking about a potential sequel called 500 Days of Autumn. Honestly, I would kind of like to see that but from Autumn’s point of view.

    That all being said, it had been a long time since I had thought about this movie, and I love that you wrote about it and all of your pictures from it brought back good memories.

  3. Wow, this is really interesting stuff. I love this movie and I can’t wait to rewatch it through your eyes.

  4. Wow this is amazing! I found your blog post so interesting. I have never looked at the film in that way xxx

  5. Wow. I never realise the color palette even after I watched the movie for many times. Great analysis!

  6. What a fantastic post! I love 500 Days of Summer, I think it’s a very smart, very wonderfully written movie, but while I’ve noticed the use of blue in a lot of shots when Summer’s around, and how those shades start out light before becoming darker and darker as it heads towards the clear end of the relationship, I had never noticed the contrast of Tom’s brown with Summer’s blue. I love so much about this film already, so thanks for showing me another fresh way to look at it.

  7. Great perspective but I kind of agree with Kelly that it doesn’t necessarily explain why Summer leaves Tom it just adds a colour scheme to emotional conflicts between the couple. Really interesting theory though and a really good read…. Great film too!

  8. This is a really wonderful theory. I never noticed how important color was to the film. Yet I totally agree with Kelly and his comment about how Tom is more in love with the idea of Summer and that’s why things don’t work out. At least, I think that’s what you’re supposed to understand after, say a couple views of the movie. I’m really loving your color theory and can’t wait to rewatch this movie!

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