Valentine’s Day is upon us once more. Just as you can expect the Christmas season to be stocked to the brim with fake snow, Christmas cards and party poppers, Valentine’s Day props include sappy love songs, Valentine’s Day cards soon to be recycled and, of course, the mushy love films to remind us all that either your relationship isn’t as good as the perfect one on screen, or that you’re a single human being wallowing in self-pity. You decide.
When Harry Met Sally begins with a 12 hour road trip taken by two dysfunctional people who attempt to endure each other before the journeys end. Although it’s packed to the top with romantic conventions, slow seductive music, mad dashes to prove your love to someone and teary tissues galore, When Harry Met Sally is an exception to the rule. The film isn’t about meeting someone and falling in love – Harry and Sally’s love is in no way instant as both characters endure a number of relationships with other people before realising that their fate lies with each other.
Of course there is a happy ending to all of this, their other relationships go awry and they predictably end up finding comfort in each other’s arms. It’s certainly no Shakespeare, but it’s not sappy either. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal’s performances in particular are razor sharp. They’re not a couple that make you want to excuse yourself to the restroom; they’re quirky, witty, and genuinely nice people who you sympathise with when things go wrong. Refreshingly you find yourself rooting for their evident romance to blossom.
When Harry Met Sally’s influence on other recent romantics has obviously been sizeable. (500) Days of Summer, for example, follows the conventional boy meets girl scenario, but the course of love in both films does not run smoothly. The film is one of the better Valentine’s Day themed movies, made all the more impressive from Crystal’s expertly cynical performance and Rob Reiner’s crisp direction, and suggestions of it becoming a timeless classic much in the way of Casablanca and Gone With the Wind may not be too far from the mark.
Best performance: Billy Crystal as Harry.