Retro Reviews: When Harry Met Sally

While every other site offers you reviews of the most current movies in theaters, someone needs to step in to review the movies that came out 10+ years ago. So hop on into the Wayback Machine with me, and let’s see what cinema has already offered…

Today marks the release of Part One of Lars Von Trier’s controversial film Nymphomaniac – the tagline for which is “Forget about love” (y’know, because of all the sex). With that film undoubtedly garnering some attention and criticism for what could be called a “bold” take on relationships, I thought this might be a good time to offer you an alternate option to watch people struggle with the balance of love and sex – and in this case, also laugh your butt off – with When Harry Met Sally.

Some people dismiss When Harry Met Sally right away, because they think it’s a “chick flick”. They’re not entirely wrong – it was, in fact, written by a woman, Nora Ephron, who went on to write several other “chick flicks” (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Julie and Julia). It also co-stars a woman. So, if those are what constitute a chick flick, then yes, that’s what this is. But it’s also a very well-crafted comedy that speaks to the differences between men and women – both perceived and real – and to the challenges of building relationships in the modern day.

There’s an interesting theme throughout the film where the characters talk about how culture and society – and especially romance – has changed over the years. This is made especially pronounced by the fact that we watch a relationship between two friends mature and develop over the course of more than a decade.

This also, to my mind, makes it one of the truest relationships in film. As I’ve evidenced previously, I’ve given some thought to ideas of a friendship that harbors true affection. We aren’t seeing two strangers meet and immediately fall in love like in most romantic comedies; Harry and Sally spend years transitioning from acquaintances to friends before they begin to become anything more serious. And while several of the scenes play out very similarly to what you’d see in a traditional romantic comedy, it feels more genuine because we’ve spent a lot more time earning those moments.

This film also presents theories like people being “high-maintenance” or the “transitional person” between relationships, but they were being presented for the first time. This film broke ground in a lot of ways, chiefly by raising a discussion question that plagues the characters throughout the film: “Can men and women ever just be friends?”

The series finale for How I Met Your Mother airs this Monday, bringing to a close a nine-season run, and that was a show filled with theories about relationships – the “hot / crazy scale,” the “three-day rule,” “crazy eyes” and more – but we would have none of that without the original, When Harry Met Sally.

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