26 years ago in 1989, Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron brought us a film that was destined to become the sole explanation for why men and women cannot, ever, be just friends.
Meg Ryan stars opposite Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, as two graduates from the University of Chicago who drive to New York together to start their separate lives. On the journey that sparks their unlikely friendship, they initially seem like the least likely pair in the world. Not even the phrase ‘opposites attract’ would be able to get these two together – with the optimistic Sally and the drolly pessimistic Harry constantly clashing along the way. The best thing about the start of the film is that, for a romantic comedy, there is very little romance. It’s quite refreshing, really.
Fast forward a few years and, inevitably, Harry and Sally cross paths again. They spend an uncomfortable plane journey squashed together (once Harry actually remembers who Sally is) and are both pleased to know that they are each involved with other people. Apparently, you are only allowed to be friends with someone of the opposite sex if you are both with other people; because then you can’t sleep together. Following the all-too-expected breakdowns of both of their relationships, Harry and Sally find themselves becoming the best of friends before unwittingly spiralling down that all too dangerous path of romance – bringing the audience into the throes of an agonising ‘will they, won’t they’ narrative.
As annoying as it can be that When Harry Met Sally is used as a textbook example of why men and women cannot be friends, each time I watch the film I find myself investing totally in the relationship between Harry and Sally. I can’t help but smile, cry, and laugh along their journey.
And, lest we forget, Meg Ryan’s iconic fake orgasm in Katz’s Delicatessen that led to the infamous line, “I’ll have what she’s having” – which was actually ingeniously improvised by Ryan and Crystal. In fact, that delicatessen is still alive and thriving on that singular moment from the film.
The film was first released in the US on this day, back in 1989, albeit on limited release. After word-of-mouth about its brilliance spread however, it soon swamped the theatres of the world, and has since become one of the most quintessential rom-coms of all time – combining that feel-good kind of comedy with a ring of absolute truth and honesty.