When Harry Met Sally is the Pinnacle Fall, New York City Movie


“When Harry Met Sally” is sickeningly heartwarming. (Courtesy of Facebook)

It is fall in New York City, which means orange leaves, bomber jackets, pumpkins on fire escapes and cold weather that comes out of nowhere. For me, it also means streaming “When Harry Met Sally” on repeat. 

Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) meets Sally Allbright (Meg Ryan) in 1977, as they carpool from University of Chicago to New York City. With all the pretension and sarcasm of a recent college graduate, Harry “explains” how men and women can never be just friends, and Sally hates him immediately. They meet again seven years later at LaGuardia Airport, and again at random intervals until they actually become friends and eventually realize they are in love. 

“When Harry Met Sally”  is a romantic comedy, and it is undoubtedly cheesy. Harry is a bit of a jerk — one of those people who say they are realistic but are really just pessimistic. Sally is high-strung and knows exactly what she wants; one of her main bits is that she can never order something at a restaurant without several modifications. 

The movie’s central thesis is one I strongly disagree with: that men and women cannot be friends because romance and sex will always get in the way. The basis of this argument is completely heteronormative and neglects to realize that relationships between individuals with different gender identities are not innately affected by sexual desire. Also, it is a bit of a stretch to assume that a platonic relationship can be “ruined” just because one person desires the other.

All that being said, “When Harry Met Sally” is one of my favorite movies of all time. I have seen it too many times to count, and I think at this point I am not so much as watching it as I am reciting every line as it happens. Every heartbreak, disappointment, job rejection or off-day I have can be seemingly healed in under two hours just by watching this movie. Sometimes, just by watching the final scene on YouTube (tears, every time). 

For one, it is the pinnacle fall New York City movie. Writer Nora Ephron and director Rob Reiner, native New Yorkers, took care to translate the feel of autumn visually and stylistically. Even though I have only lived here through college, I have always been in love with the way New York feels as the colder months approach — as if the entire city is burgeoning on some kind of transformation. 

There are familiar moments and beautiful shots, like carrying jackets through the Metropolitan Museum of Art and walking over fallen leaves in Central Park. Ryan and Crystal wear turtlenecks, plaid blazers and light layers throughout the film and down the streets of Manhattan. One of the most iconic scenes involves a faked orgasm in Katz Delicatessen, still a New York City staple 30 years later. 

The movie deals with moving apartments, running into your ex in a city of 8 million people and the impending stress of getting older. It speaks on traditional societal pressures and the strength of individual growth outside of romantic relationships. But I think my favorite thing about “When Harry Met Sally” is its love for love. 

This movie is sickeningly heartwarming and I am a hopeless romantic. Even the main story line is broken up by short interviews with happily married elderly couples. There are grand gestures and declarations of love, and I eat up every second of it. But even despite its relentless optimism, Ephron and Reiner do not depict or glorify blind love — the type of love that does not acknowledge faults or compromise. They celebrate the pursuit of true love, the admiration of imperfections and the chaos and uncertainty of New York City. 

The movie is not perfect, and neither are its characters, but it is a beautiful celebration of loving and being loved. Definitely try to watch it before autumn disappears as fast as summer did.