It’s so rare for a film to honestly evoke or replicate the experience of falling in love and even more unusual for it to chronicle, heartbreakingly, what happens if that relationship goes awry. Delightfully, (500) Days of Summer is one of those extraordinarily uncommon gems.

From the beginning, the film explains it is not a love story, “it’s a story about love,” one that promises to enrapture audiences, and I’d be willing to bet picks up one of those spiffy new Top 10 Best Picture Oscar nods during award season.

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star as Summer and Tom, co-workers at a greeting card company who embark on a relationship despite Summer’s aversion to commitment. The film carries the audience back and forth in a non-linear zigzag across the transom of their relationship.

Using cinematic styles varying from 1950s educational films to the French new wave, and including a glorious full-out dance number, Patrick Swayze’s “She’s Like the Wind,” and the most ingenious split screen in recent memory (sorry, “24”), (500) Days unravels as it leaps back and forth through time.

Writer Michael Weber explains that he and writing partner Scott Neustadter wanted the script to unfold with a disjointed trajectory because “that’s how we remember relationships. No one remembers them in a linear way. You walk down the street, you see something and it reminds you of an ex-girlfriend and you remember the good times and the bad times.”

Neustadter bravely admits that the script is based entirely on his past, incredibly painful, experiences with one ex-girlfriend. While he says the script began as “an extended diary entry,” it soon became a remedy for his love sickness.

He was looking for a cinematic salve, something to anoint his wounds, and all he could turn to were classics like Annie Hall, so he and Weber decided to make the film they couldn’t find amongst their contemporaries, one about “the fog of a relationship,” Weber says. “It’s two people together who are not necessarily remembering or experiencing things the same way.”

First-time director Marc Webb, whose previous work was primarily music videos, jumped at the chance to be involved in a “new garde”of romantic comedies.

“I felt like there hadn’t been a movie about love that was accessible and truthful in a while,” Webb contends. “We tried to create something timeless and story book-y.”

Webb understood a large part of the film’s success was entirely reliant on his stars and that he couldn’t cast actors based on their individual performance; he had to “cast a dynamic.”

“When I met with Joe,” Webb recalls, “I asked who he thought could play Summer. He said, ‘There’s this person and that person’ and then he [said], ‘But really the only person who should play her is Zooey,’ and he had this look in his eyes and I was like, ‘Roll camera!’ It was perfect. Beguiling!”

Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel have been friends for almost a decade and previously starred together in 2001’s Manic. They agree their personal history made for tangible screen chemistry, and both say they’re thrilled to be part of a film that is both effervescently romantic but still brutally realistic.

“When Mark and I spoke,” Gordon-Levitt begins, “it became really clear that he was interested in telling an honest and genuine story about human beings.”

He says everyone involved was hoping to do more than crank out another formulaic genre flick; they wanted to make a movie, which acknowledges that “love is complicated and hilarious and sad and beautiful.”

“It was one of those movies,” Deschanel says, her massive blue eyes sparkling, “[that’s] really rare, where you’re having such a good time making it. From the beginning, it had this special glow about it. It felt magical.”

(500) Days of Summer releases in select theaters July 17.