Everyone who insists that romantic comedies have to be predictable and formulaic should see this film. Not only is it charming and funny, but it takes a strikingly original approach that leaves a big, stupid grin on your face.
Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is a shy greeting-card creator who's instantly smitten when he meets Summer (Deschanel), although it's not until Day 4 that he realises he's falling for her. But when things start heating up, she tells him she wants to keep it casual without getting serious. A happy non-relationship ensues, but by Day 300 he's in abject misery. His friends (Arend and Gubler) aren't much help, and even his smart little sister (Moretz) can't offer him any useful advice.
There are no spoilers in that plot description, since the story is told out of sequence, with the days numbered. We know things are going to go wrong, but we don't know why and we certainly can't say for sure where it will go from there.
The writers and director keep this playful structure aloft right to the very end, carrying us through the story with a remarkable lightness that allows us to experience both joy and pain along with Tom.
Gordon-Levitt reinvents himself as an actor with every role, and this is no exception. Tom is so offbeat and likeable that we can't help but care about him, and Gordon-Levitt plays him note-perfect, catching Tom's gifts and flaws along with the difficulty he has expressing his sharp intelligence. Meanwhile, Deschanel is enchanting as Summer; we're in no doubt why Tom falls for her (and it has more to do with the fact that she loves the Smiths). And her sexy quirkiness reveals a lovely sense of sincerity.
Together, they make such a great couple that when boy loses girl, as he must in any rom-com, it's genuinely heartbreaking. But the filmmakers have something surprising up their sleeves, as they flicker back and forth in time, from one hilarious scene to another (you'd think they couldn't top the office karaoke).
With witty photography and editing, gorgeously rendered effects and a fantastic song score, this is a bracingly honest look at attraction, relationships and architecture. And of course, it's also a tender exploration of falling in love.