When Harry Met Sally: A Lockdown Review
Katya Green explains why When Harry Met Sally is her perfect lockdown film.
With the third national lockdown came the much more frequent introduction of house film nights (since there wasn’t much else to do with our evenings). Many household conversations would revolve around an exchange of ‘You know the movie…’ followed by ‘I can’t believe you haven’t seen it!’ It even got to the point of bargaining, ‘If you make me watch x film, you have to watch y,’ as a form of coercing each other into watching feel-good films we love, but are objectively terrible. Luckily, using my birthday as leverage, I managed to force the entire house to settle down on the sofa with various bags of snacks for one of my all-time favourite comfort films: When Harry Met Sally.
Though it’s perhaps not a film I expected my house to love, it is a classic. Starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal along with an appearance from Carrie Fisher, it follows the lives of Harry and Sally with an underlying narrative about Harry’s assertion that men and women can’t be friends. To start with, the dated aesthetic gives you a comforting nostalgia from the opening credits (in our case, for a time which was in fact before we were born). It’s one of those films where, if you haven’t seen it (presumably from living under a rock), you will have at least heard of it, sparking a curiosity only satiated by giving up one hour and thirty-six minutes of your life.
On what probably must be my tenth re-watch, I still cannot be convinced that the film is anything other than perfect. Perhaps I may be influenced by the fact I have so many good memories of watching it with my family or at sleepovers with my school friends, staying up until three am, awake only due to the colossal amount of sugar we’d consumed. But the (somewhat) complex characters, giving you just enough development to add depth without taking away from the casual light-heartedness of a rom-com, combined with a mix of silly to dark comedy (and the iconic orgasm scene) gives you a well-rounded film with just enough romance to keep you interested, and just enough comedy to keep you laughing.
It's true that not all parts of the film live up to our current expectations. It’s not ground-breaking or particularly ahead of its time. Sally, as a strong female character, is perhaps slightly undermined by her eventual partnership with Harry who insults her throughout the film and, indeed, the entire female gender. However, somehow the frustrating ending in seeing a woman enter a relationship with a man who is, arguably, not good enough for her, weirdly makes it more enjoyable. It is, after all, what you grow to expect from a rom-com. And there is a strange satisfaction in arguing with a film as it ends, turning to your housemates on the sofa and discussing whether they should’ve ended up together, who she should have been with in the end. It’s not a feminist film, it’s not an inclusive film and it’s not a revolutionary film. It’s old, and mindless, and problematic, and still one of the best films to watch with a group of friends.