When Harry Met Sally

Harry and Sally love the hell out of each other, but it takes a while to kick in. It’s not love at first sight. It’s total bafflement.

Their lives are unrecognizable to one another. Harry is a cynical romantic who hits on his girlfriend’s best friend the day they meet; Sally takes it for granted there are no Sunday underwear because of God. Her earnestness is only matched by her specificity. When Sally sweetly lists out exactly how she wants her food prepared, she somehow isn’t annoying, and you can tell that people have loved to accommodate Sally her whole life. Harry should be immune, but he’s not, and he’s self-aware enough to find Sally’s effect on him queer. His gaze says “How the hell am I so attracted to this naive nutball?”

Harry tries to put this complicated charming woman into a box he knows how to handle — like a one night stand — and she resists. Sally is so offended that he isn’t constrained to the same boundaries she respects.

“Why can’t we just be friends?” asks Sally, to paraphrase.

“Men and women can’t be friends without involving sex,” replies Harry, to state the main question of the movie.

When they move on from that strange road trip, it’s years before they see each other again, but they do not forget.


Sally and Harry meet again when both of them are in committed relationships. Harry is married happily, sort of. He’s still a cynic, but he has decided to engage with life in good faith, and Sally admires that about him.

Despite his bluster and bark, Harry is such a good guy that he’s not taking any serious look at Sally yet. They’re a pleasant chance meeting on a flight from one place to another. They’re just traveling between places again, and they brush up against each other, and it couldn’t possibly turn into anything. They determine that means they can be friends. Just friends. At long last.

But they’ve also been wondering that about one another for years. What would have happened if they had hooked up that night? Could it have changed the trajectories of their lives?


Friendship love is my favorite love. The Greeks had a bunch of words for all the different kinds, but philia is the kind held between equals; it is brotherhood, it is your pinkie-locked bestie skipping beside you at the mall. Imagine spending a whole lifetime with your childhood best friend. If those endless summer days where the two wasted time, like, crawling around in a ditch, and playing hopscotch, and throwing rocks at fences could really last forever, what would that be like? Wouldn’t it be better if the two of you could also kiss sometimes? And make babies and a family and have a life together?


Harry and Sally get close to one another after major breakups. Both of them thought they had forever. The next step should have been houses, kids, dogs, paying for college, grandkids…

Instead, they find themselves facing their thirties mutually single. Harry and Sally aren’t traveling anymore, either. They’re both in New York City.

At this point, they’ve bickered over the offensive idea of a relationship between the two of them so much, it almost feels like a challenge to stay platonic. And they really *like* the friendship. They don’t want to lose it.

It seems impossible to conceive of the friendship coexisting with a romantic relationship. They’ve both been hurt by love. Harry’s wife left him for an accountant; Sally’s long-term guy married his secretary shortly after their breakup. As far as either of them are concerned, relationships are where love goes to die.

Still. They have been enjoying their friendship enormously. Their conversations are play. They’re always walking together, confiding in one another, and sharing experiences.

When Sally tells Harry she’s going to date someone else, she wants him to have a problem with it.

When Harry tells her it’s okay, it’s obviously not.

“We’re just friends,” sayeth Harry. Because that is something men and women can do now.


Is there anything more satisfying than seeing a couple of idiots realize they’re in love?

Harry and Sally can’t be with each other until they reconcile all their weird relationship ideas. They have to see their friends, General Leia and Bruno Kirby, have a relationship where they enjoy one another *and* have the love bits. They have to lose the friendship and realize that’s what they wanted from love all along, not so much the sexier bits or the romantic bits.

How many heterosexual romances are so openly uneasy with the perceived cultural demands of heterosexual romance? Sally’s a Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus type, and if Harry were 35 (ish?) in the modern era, I’m scared to think about what his podcast subscriptions would look like. They’ve been told that whole parts of their selves should belong to friends, not lovers. Lovers are the people you try to escape before they wake up in the morning. Lovers are the people you take skiing trips with. Lovers are the ones you fake orgasms for.

These adorable fools are all heart, no matter how many walls they put up. Harry is sickeningly in love with Sally. All of her, especially the quirks. He thinks that it would be great to be friends who make out and have a family. Of course he does! Sally is Meg Goddamn Ryan.

And imagine. Once these two finally get their shit together, they get to spend the rest of their lives with their best friends.


He and I met in 2006. I was starting at my new job as a computer operator; he was already working there as a student worker. It was so naughty for a full-time employee like me to date a student worker, even though I’m several months younger than him. When I walked away from him, he chased; when he caught me, I was the one who said, “Ah ha, I’ve got you.”

It must have been inevitable. We were the only two young people working in that building. There was no reason for the two of us to be such a perfect fit. I wasn’t a perfect fit anywhere, sticking out like a sore thumb. He blended in anywhere, but wasn’t a fit inside of himself. I helped him be naughtier. He tied a weight around my ankles so I wouldn’t float into the clouds as often. But we had so much fun. We ran around like children getting into trouble–we were children–and he loved me so hard, I eventually forgot to hate myself.


In my eyes, When Harry Met Sally eclipses and predominates the whole of its genre. The story is very dear to me, but When Harry Met Sally is also just a really well-written screenplay in the hands of a great director. Rob Reiner is a genius. Nora Ephron is at her vibey best.

Then we have a flawless Billy Crystal, who gives a performance with pining eyes that rival Colin Firth’s. That’s right. You wouldn’t necessarily expect that from the guy who wrote America’s Sweethearts, a black comedy take on romcoms. He manages to bring so much charisma to a character who should be nothing but caustic. The way he plays Harry’s cynicism softening for Sally should be cinematic legend if it isn’t.

I couldn’t sing Meg Ryan’s praises enough. Apparently her character’s picky qualities came from Nora Ephron. There’s a lot of fondness in the screenplay for the kind of woman who knows what she wants, and I’m not sure Meg Ryan is capable of playing someone I wouldn’t want to hang out with. She’s just so cute. And it’s fun seeing her in this movie, because she looks a whole lot like her son Jack Quaid wearing a wig. They have the same smile.

You should also remember that Rob Reiner is the cowriter and director of This Is Spinal Tap. The comedy is *outstanding*. The dialogue snaps along, and it still makes me laugh every time.

Since I’ve been watching so many new-to-me movies and enjoying the heck out of them, I wondered if I wouldn’t like my “old classics” as much. Like, would having a broader view of the genre change my extremely intense feelings about this? And the answer is no. When Harry Met Sally remains the perfect movie for watching any time in the period between autumn and New Year’s Eve, and it makes me love these two neurotic weirdos even more every time.

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