Harry: You know, the first time we met, I really didn’t like you that much.
Sally: I didn’t like you.
Harry: Yeah you did. You were just so uptight then. You’re much softer now.
When Harry Met Sally… (dir. by Rob Reiner, 1989)
As I remember it, I was on holiday. The sound of my grandpa’s slippers shuffling along the hall carpet towards me would signal the imminent arrival of another cup of tea.
This was our standard weekend ritual, played out in a holiday setting. My mum and nana would go to the shops, and leave me and my lovely grandad – gramps, grampa – to our own devices. We were the best of friends, and even though he isn’t here to make me cups of teas anymore, I can still hear the sound of his gentle footsteps making their way towards me. Meanwhile, I would undoubtedly be glued to the television…
My recollection of childhood has always been a little hazy, but I have plenty of film-focused memories stored away. I remember watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Lord of the Rings with my dad, back in the heady days before the itchy impulse to check our phones descended upon us all.
I was maybe thirteen the first time I saw When Harry Met Sally…, in a little house in Dunbar that was more corridor than anything else. I remember the tennis being on in the living room, red wine spilling on a carpet that wasn’t ours, and being uninspired by When Harry Met Sally…
It has never been a struggle for me to completely lap up a story. My mum recalls that when she took me to see a show at our local theatre as a child, I asked for the videotape to be put back in and played all over again. The idea that we might only get to see what is in front of us once, before it disappears forever, had yet to cross my mind.
Surprisingly, when I first saw When Harry Met Sally…, which is regarded as one of the best romantic-comedies – and movies – of all time, it didn’t impact me. The pace of the film evaded me, and I couldn’t understand how this sweet, simple movie had surpassed all others. It must have been good in its day, but had lost its shine, lauded only by those watched it at the time of its original release.
Five years later.
Like the plot of the film itself, five years pass before I meet When Harry Met Sally… again. I have no recollection of this second viewing. I only know that it changed my life forever.
This has happened a few times. I had watched all of Breaking Bad with my brother, but we weren’t together when the finale aired. I paced around my bedroom in complete awe, desperate to share my excitement over the final episode with him. When I was fifteen I watched Fight Club and froze with amazement in my computer chair. I became so obsessed with Inception that I watched it approximately twelve times over three days. I, obviously, haven’t seen it since.
Movies and television are where I feel most at home. I go looking for myself and everyone else in the characters; I subconsciously log dialogue away that resonates with me, ready to help me work out and analyse my own existence. Art is that powerful.
Thankfully, now I see that When Harry Met Sally… is a slick masterpiece. Nora Ephron’s witty, enduring dialogue is unforgettable. The performances are outstanding. No one does it like Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. Carrie Fisher’s comic timing is unreal. Don’t get me started on the soundtrack. Set in an ever-beautiful New York, the seasons come and go, as do the people, just like in real life. So much lingers beneath the surface, waiting to be said. This is a ‘Will they?/Won’t they?’ where there is a good chance they actually won’t.
I am so glad I gave When Harry Met Sally… another chance. I was just too young to understand its magic. Right movie, wrong time. Now, much like drinking a cup of tea, watching this movie has become a ritual – something to be savoured.
I urge you to reconsider all the books you’ve read when you were too tired to focus, all the songs you turned off after thirty seconds, all the films you’ve watched in a bad mood.
What favourites can you rediscover? Where is your enemies to lovers story?
Harry: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and the thing is, I love you.