Opinion | ‘When Harry Met Sally’ grounds love in friendship

By Rayna Wuh, Assistant Opinions Editor

“When Harry Met Sally” is a treasure of a romantic comedy. In a genre full of cliches and overplayed tropes, the film’s sincerity shines through.

At its core, “When Harry Met Sally” is just as much about friendship as it is about love.

The film opens with an interview of an elderly couple telling the story of how they fell in love. This story is based on an interview done by the director, Rob Reiner, and similar real-life love stories are interspersed throughout. As the relationship between the title characters develops, viewers are reminded of the various forms that romance can take and the friendship that underlies it all.

One such couple, arms interlaced, recounted the number of near misses they had before finally meeting each other. As they finished each other’s sentences, their voices overlapped in harmony but never interrupted. When the story reached the moment when they met, so too did their eyes and smiles. The couple’s words and body language are evidence of their lasting closeness and as a whole, the story is one of old friends.

Over 12 years and 3 months that the film takes place, the story is explored through both the main characters’ relationships with each other and with the other important people in their lives. The timeline allows “When Harry Met Sally” to overcome a pitfall of many romantic comedies — the characters falling “in love” too hastily and succumbing to superficial sentiments produced entirely by the situations they find themselves in.

Neither Harry Burns nor Sally Albright are perfect people. When the two meet shortly after their college graduation, they can hardly stand each other. Harry found Sally uptight and snobby, while Sally found Harry abrasive and petulant. Yet, from the very start, their conversations are candid. Instead of hiding behind social conventions and politeness, they articulate exactly how they feel and almost constantly call each other out.

As friends, Harry and Sally navigate everything from relationships and subsequent breakups to recurring nightmares. Their conversations over the years evolve as they grow as individuals and as friends. Even after fighting, they manage to communicate and strengthen their bond based on mutual understanding.

Over time, their lives become so intertwined that Harry and Sally become inseparable.

Harry finally declares his love for Sally in an impassioned speech near the end of the film. When she dismisses his confession as a manifestation of his loneliness, he responds by telling her exactly what he loves about her — the way she “gets cold when it’s 71 degrees out,” that it “takes (her) an hour and a half to order a sandwich,” that she gets “a little crinkle above (her) nose” when looking at him like he’s nuts, that after spending the day together he “can still smell (her] perfume on (his clothes),” and ends his confession by admitting she is the last person that he wants to talk to before going to sleep at night.

The situation, a New Year’s party, is merely the catalyst for the characters to realize their love for one another. It is not circumstance that ties them together. Instead, their love for each other is grounded by friendship and exists not in spite of knowing each other so fully and deeply, but because of it.

“When Harry Met Sally” depicts genuine friendship as a necessary precursor to romantic connection. Instead of glazing over seemingly mundane moments, the film zooms into the development of the title characters’ relationship. The story is one that evokes feelings of warmth and comfort on every rewatch.

 

Rayna is a junior is LAS.

[email protected]