The 1989 film When Harry Met Sally brings all the romantic comedy motifs one expects, yet the film follows an unusual path as the two main characters struggle to ever truly confirm their love. The movie focuses on the relationship development of Harry Burns (played by Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (played by Meg Ryan) over a twelve-year period with the two coincidentally reuniting about every five years.
In the beginning scene, an elderly couple lounges on a couch. The man explains to viewers how when he first laid eyes on his wife he knew she was the one. Their interview styled introduction sets off the idyllic mood of the story leading the audience into the beginning of a perfect love story. Next, the story places us at the University of Chicago in 1977 where the two main characters: Harry and Sally are introduced. Coincidentally, both happen to be on their way to New York and decide to ride together to the city. Right from the beginning, Harry and Sally’s distinctly different personalities are put on display. Harry is filled with cynicism as he begins talking about how he thinks of death all the time while on the contrary, Sally insists she the quite happy go lucky woman. While stopping off to a roadside diner on the way, their signature personalities continue develop as Sally takes her time ordering a precise meal as Harry gazes in utter confusion. Most importantly, Harry relays a lasting impression on Sally that men and women are not able to be “just friends.”
Cutting to the following scene, a different elderly couple explains how after falling in love in high school they rekindled the romance 34 years later. This instance foreshadows Harry and Sally bumping into one another again where the story picks up again five years later with Sally leaving her boyfriend at the airport as she goes on a business trip. Harry happens to have a seat right behind her on the plane and Sally reluctantly reminisces with Harry about their road trip together. Despite other stories where the relationship would rekindle a spark, both part ways again once off the plan after Sally rejects Harry’s dinner offer.
Fast forward another five years, after both Harry and Sally have suffered breakups, Sally is browsing at a bookstore with her best friend Marie (played by Carrie Fisher). After noticing Harry peering at her from over a bookshelf, the two begin to talk and Sally asks Harry to dinner. At this point, Sally and Harry open up to one another about dispositional details as to why their past relationships failed. After their first dinner, the two begin spending immense amounts of time together all the while audiences are witness to their distinct personalities still shining through, but now with the acceptance of one another’s quirks.
As the two continue going on friendly dates, viewers also experience the interaction between both of their best friends, Marie and Jess (played by Bruno Kirby). Marie is seeing a married man and Jess can’t quite comprehend how Harry is able to be friends with a woman he is not sleeping with. Although the two do not seem to know the most important qualities to lasting relationships, they both become the prime example of a happy couple in the film. Harry and Sally set each other up with their friends and the two pairs go on a double date. Nonetheless, despite being set up with the opposite partner, Marie and Jess end up falling for one another and get married. After the successful romance of their two friends occurs, both Harry and Sally suffer a confidence break due to past emotions from their previous relationships. After running into his ex-wife at a store, Harry can’t grasp why Sally is unbothered by how her previous relationship with Joe ended which ends up causing a dispute. Although short winded, the argument causes tensions to build. Throughout the film, both intently ask their friends who the other is seeing, nonchalantly acting as if it does not bother the other. Not long after, Sally calls Harry sobbing because she found out Joe is getting married and feels she was not good enough. At this point in the film, both Harry and Sally have not only opened up to one another about personal details in their lives, but shared heartbreak and being there for one another.
However, after spending a night together, Harry distances himself from Sally causing tensions to rise even further. Confrontation proves inevitable since both are participants in their friends’ wedding even though the two have not spoken for three weeks. Will another five years go by before Harry and Sally meet up again or will this be a lasting reconnection?
When Harry Met Sally is an unusual take on a romantic comedy with characters who do not fall into the stereotypical lover roles. The film takes a real stand on relationships where two people do not immediately fall in love, but slowly get to know one another. The story’s time structure provides an authentic feeling of change that comes with life. The imperfectness of life, its expectations, and time itself prove to be the barriers the characters face in the film. When Harry Met Sally emphasizes the importance of being there for someone you love and embracing the qualities that make them who they are.
Director: Rob Reiner
Writer: Nora Ephron
Starring: Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Romance Drama
Release Date: 1989
Movie time: 1 hr 36 min.
Cathleen Meyer | Writing Contributor
B.A. | Communications | Cal State Univ – San Marcos
Cathleen is a college student who places an importance on being active and is an old soul at heart. Her music taste is a jumble of different artists with favorites like ABBA, Def Leppard, Journey, and Fleetwood Mac. When it comes to movies, musicals and 80s are her first choice. Cathleen wrote for her school newspaper for two years in high school and since then has participated in a government and human resources internship. She enjoys delving into a good book whenever possible, with time period pieces being her favorite type of literature to explore. Being a Disney fan since birth, her favorite time is spent with her family at the happiest place on Earth. A personal hobby of Cathleen’s since she was young, is hairstyling and makeup. Once she completes college, she plans to attend Paul Mitchell Beauty School to follow her passion. Cathleen hopes to apply her communication and literature degree to a variety of career paths most importantly including public relations. | Instagram @Cat17Cat| View My Articles
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