"When Harry Met Sally..." Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks have been in a couple of great rom-coms together, such as "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail", but I truly wish she had more films with Billy Crystal, as they prove they are an excellent match in Rob Reiner's "When Harry Met Sally...". The film, which follows the two stars as they navigate their unlikely relationship across numerous years in New York, is excellent, with hilarious performances from the two, a heartwarming and beautiful story, and fantastic directing from Reiner.
The film follows two people, Harry (Crystal) and Sally (Ryan), who could not be any more different. She is very calm and reserved when they first meet, while Harry is brazen and too smart for his own good. After sharing a disastrous multi-hour car ride, they go their separate ways, hoping to never encounter one another again. When they start running into each other every couple years, they decide to be friends during one interaction, and start to go down a road that leads to them wanting to pursue a romantic relationship. However, they are scared that if that does happen, will that change them totally, not only as people but their relationship as a whole?
The entire movie is led by performances, and Crystal and Ryan give excellent ones. Ryan is always great at playing the girl next door, the one who is very innocent and wants to believe in the good in the world. Crystal, on the other hand, is a hilarious man who is not only expecting the worst to happen to him, but is also methodical and intelligent when he speaks. He may be an asshole, but he knows what he is talking about and is very blunt when he says it. Because of this, they seem like two very unlikely people to form a friendship, yet they do and it is so beautiful to watch.
Even though they are so vastly different from one another, they work together perfectly. They have this charismatic chemistry with one another, showing how comfortable they are in each other's presence. You can easily believe they are lifelong friends, and that sexual tension between the two is persistently present throughout the whole movie. Consider the infamous scene where Sally fakes an orgasm at a local diner, prompting the elderly lady (who is actually Reiner's mom in real life) to remark that she will have what she's having. You can see the excitement and nervousness that Harry has on his face, and I think this is the first marking point to where you can see the shift from how Harry is finding himself interested in Sally.
I also really like how Reiner took the approach of having this story span across multiple years. Most rom-coms, and romance movies in general, take the approach of telling the story of now. Now the couple are together and they will go on to spend the rest of their lives together. This movie is uninterested in that. It wants to show the longevity of a relationship, making it feel very real and practical in a way. Sure, it's nice to hope that characters like Vivian and Edward from "Pretty Woman" will last for the rest of their lives, but this movie simply does show you they will last. It shows how their relationship progressed, and demonstrates how the characters changed and evolved over time. This is more than a simple rom-com, but rather a character study to show how two completely polar opposites can change and evolve together.
The way that Reiner handles the film as a whole shows how passionate of a filmmaker he is. It is obvious that he believes in love, and the film is evident of that. No matter if it is a love in terms of friendship or a romantic relationship, it is very present throughout the movie. There was the friendship between Harry and Sally, that eventually evolves into a romantic one. There's the friendship between Harry and Jess (Bruno Kirby) where they seem more like brothers. There's the one between Sally and Marie (Carrie Fisher) that shows they will always be there for each other. If Reiner wants you to take anything from the film as a whole, it is simply that love exists in the world in many forms.
Reiner also does a great job of immersing the viewer into this world of New York that he has created. It seems so vast, yet so small at the same time. He has this set of characters and interactions that take place around the city, and they serve as markers for the characters and their journey throughout the years. I adore the way he takes this location and utilize it for the purpose of the characters and how they changed and evolved over time. I don't think it could have worked in a small city, and New York was the perfect option to put them in.
Crystal and Ryan are two fantastic actors, and together, they make magic. With the direction from Reiner and the brilliant screenplay he and Nora Ephron crafted, "When Harry Met Sally..." is such a wonderful and joyous film that makes the audience believe in love. There is a reason this film has been so highly regarded all these years later, and once you watch it, you'll see exactly why.