Looking Back on ‘When Harry Met Sally’

July of this year will mark the 30th anniversary of the release of the seminal genre-classic, When Harry Met Sally — a truly unforgettable film that continues to be as relevant today as it was when it was in 1989.

The film stars Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal as Sally Albright and Harry Burns, two twenty-somethings sharing a drive from Chicago to New York City, where they’re both about to start their respective lives. Following a car ride full of hilarious but heated disagreements, the two part ways, convinced that they won’t be seeing any more of one another. For many years to come, however, the two come in and out of contact as their lives intertwine in unique and compelling ways. The movie tells the story of their life journeys, and boy, does it ever do a wonderful job.

The film was written by the late, three-time-academy-award-nominated screenwriter Nora Ephron, whose dialogue shines through at each and every turn. Her writing manages to somehow be overtly anachronistic, and explicitly believable at the same time. Her style relies on little cliché — her characters are well-rounded and chock-a-block full of opinions. Every line is intriguing and pertinent and thoughtful and insightful —  an incredible feat of writing, and one that I feel honoured to enjoy every time I turn on the movie.

Here are just two examples:

"They should put the two sections together, real estate and obituaries-- Mr. Klein died today leaving a wife, two children, and a spacious three-bedroom apartment with a wood-burning fireplace.”

"How much worse can it get than finishing dinner, having him reach over, pull a hair out of my head, and start flossing with it at the table?" 

The film also spawned one of the most quoted lines in film history. Have you ever heard “I’ll have what she’s having”? This movie. And if you don't know the scene... you might be surprised what exactly the woman in question is having.

(warning, I’d watch with a pair of headphones instead of on speaker… trust me.)

The movie’s director, Rob Reiner, also does a wonderful job. His shorts vary from the expansive to the minute, the bombastic to the subtle, in a very delicate way. He, as well as Crystal and Ryan themselves, contributed much to the script, with interviews with Reiner serving as the basis for the character of Harry.

He also directed this exceptional and revolutionary scene, which purportedly took over 60 full takes to get right.

If all this isn’t enough, Carrie Fischer’s in the movie, and she’s absolutely hilarious. What more do you want.

When Harry Met Sally is unexpected, surprising, bizarre, and fresh. It features substantial challenges to traditional gender roles throughout the film, and a wonderful new perspective on what it means to be in that period of your life. Harry and Sally are both struggling to be so different and unique, and at the end of the day, decide that they want to take up more traditional gender roles. And that decision, too, is okay.

 

image and video credits courtesy of Castle Rock Entertainment