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Film Review: When Harry Met Sally...

Updated on January 3, 2017
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Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.

Background

In 1989, Rob Reiner released When Harry Met Sally… Starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby, Steven Ford, Lisa Jane Persky, Michelle Nicastro, Kevin Rooney, Harley Kozak, Franc Luz, Tracy Reiner, and Estelle Reiner, the film grossed $92.8 million at the box office.

Synopsis

As Harry Burns and Sally Albright share a drive from Chicago to New York City, they discuss whether or not a man can be friends with a woman. They decide not to be friends and part ways only to continually revisit the question whenever the two run into each other over the next 12 years.

Review

When Harry Met Sally… is a good film employing a humorous and quirky tone in what has to say concerning relationships. Both the main characters have their own ideas on the subject of men and women keeping up platonic relationships, which are the driving force behind all their actions throughout the plot.

On one hand, there’s Harry. He is established as believing the two sexes can never have a platonic relationship since the issue of sex will be constantly present. The two may go their separate ways as they reach New York City, despite him attempting to get her to sleep with him. Over the next decade, the two run into each other and each time, Harry exhibits he maintains his initial beliefs, though stating there are exceptions to the rule during their second encounter. This is apparent in how his wife wants a trial separation, something he knows is the precursor to a divorce. Due to his belief of men and women never being able to be friends, his marriage was based on other factors than a mutual interest in each other.

Compare all of this to Sally who contrasts Harry and steadily asserts the opinion men and women can be friends without the notion of sex coming into play, always rebuffing Harry’s advances. Throughout the years she and Harry come across each other, she moves in and out of relationships that start healthy and end tragically, supposedly determining Harry right considering she would befriend a person before dating and having sex with them.

The fascinating aspect of these two characters is their assessments are both right to some degree along with how they grow as characters. As the film progresses, the two of them begin a friendship, apparently proving Sally right. They have late night conversations, meals and spend a lot of time together. Yet, the film then shifts to ostensibly justifying Harry when the two sleep together. However, the transpiring events demonstrate neither of them were completely correct in their assumptions.

Harry is confirmed wrong with the healthy friendship he commences with Sally and grows as a character after the two have sex. He’s immediately distressed and tension mounts between the two and the friendship stifles until he realizes he’s developed feelings for her. Sally, on the other hand, welcomes the friendship, is found wrong as she declares it ruined following the sex, and ultimately accepts the apology and declaration of love he provides. The growth comes with compromise, too. Harry comes to understand platonic friendship between the sexes is possible and Sally realizes a friendship can invariably lead to sex as well as a healthy relationship.

Complementing the story is a fascinating frame. Bookending each time Harry and Sally run across each other are couples documenting their stories, including how they met, their time as a couple, the moments leading up to their marriages and how satisfied they are in life. The film ends depicting Harry and Sally doing the same, showing the whole film was them recounting their relationship. What’s more, all the other relationships in the documentary have been shown to be strong bonds lasting years, more or less implying Harry and Sally will stay together for a long time.

5 stars for When Harry Met Sally...

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinions.

Awards won

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Screenplay - Original

American Comedy Awards

  • Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) (Meg Ryan)
  • Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role (Billy Crystal)

ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Top Box Office Films


Nominated for

Academy Awards

  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
  • Best Director - Motion Picture
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical (Meg Ryan)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical (Billy Crystal)
  • Best Screenplay - Motion Picture

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Film

American Comedy Awards

  • Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Carrie Fisher)

Directors Guild of America Awards

  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures

DVD Exclusive Video Premiere Awards

  • Best Audio Commentary

PGA Awards

  • Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures

Writers Guild of America Awards

  • Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

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