Filmsite Movie Review
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

A sixth elderly Asian couple provide the next camera interview:

Man: A man came to me and said, 'I found nice girl for you. She lives in the next village, and she is ready for marriage.' We were not supposed to meet until the wedding. But I wanted to make sure, so I sneak into her village, hid behind a tree, watch her washing the clothes. I think, if I don't like the way she looks, I don't marry her. But she look really nice to me. So I said OK to the man, we get married. We are married for fifty-five years.


In The Sharper Image store, Sally and Harry are 'hunting' for Christmas gifts for Jess and Marie. Harry is sold on a basketball hoop on a stand, a battery-operated pith helmet with fan, and a one-person singing machine with cassettes for Oklahoma! (they vocalize together on "Surrey With the Fringe on Top"). Harry is startled to see his former wife Helen (Harley Kozak) approach toward them with her new, slightly balding boyfriend Ira Stone (Kevin Rooney). After a few excruciating pleasantries, the couple stroll away hand-in-hand and Harry is dumbfounded and awe-struck by the encounter:

Harry: She looked weird, didn't she? She looked really weird. She looked very weird.
Sally: I've never seen her before.
Harry: Trust me, she looked weird. Her legs looked heavy. Really, she must be retaining water.
Sally: Harry.
Harry: Believe me, the woman saved everything.

At a plant shop, Harry broods and stares blankly into thin air after bumping into Helen:

Sally: You sure you're OK?
Harry: Oh, I'm fine. Look, it had to happen at some point. In a city of eight million people, you're bound to run into your ex-wife. So boom, it happened. And now I'm fine.

In their shared West Side apartment where they have settled in, Marie and Jess are discussing furniture preferences. She objects to certain decorative items which lack "good taste" - a wagon-wheel coffee table with a glass top and bar stools. Harry shares his own dismal learning experiences from a six-year marriage with Helen:

...I want our friends to benefit from the wisdom of my experience. Right now everything is great. Everyone is happy. Everyone is in love. And that's wonderful. But you gotta know that sooner or later you're gonna be screaming at each other about who's gonna get this dish. (He picks up a blue dinner plate) This eight-dollar dish will cost you a thousand dollars in phone calls to the legal firm of 'That's mine, this is yours.'...Please. Jess, Marie, do me a favor. For your own good. Put your name in your books right now. Before they get mixed up and you don't know whose is whose. Because someday, believe it or not, you'll go fifteen rounds over who's gonna get this coffee table - this stupid wagon-wheel, Roy Rogers, garage-sale coffee table.

Harry is plagued by a compulsion to express every feeling that he has - every moment that he has them. According to Harry, Sally - cruelly dubbed "Miss Hospital Corners" - is delivering "a lecture series on social graces." Harry is exasperated that nothing seems to bother Sally - unlike him, she doesn't appear to have feelings of loss or upset for her failed relationship with Joe:

Harry: If you're so over Joe, why aren't you seeing anyone?
Sally: I see people.
Harry: See people? Have you slept with one person since you broke up with Joe?
Sally: What the hell does that have to do with anything? That will prove I'm over Joe because I f--k somebody? Harry, you're gonna have to move back to New Jersey because you've slept with everybody in New York, and I don't see that turning Helen into a faint memory for you. Besides, I will make love to somebody when it is making love, not the way you do it, like you're out for revenge or something.

Harry apologizes for his brash insults and they hug each other to make up.

At a social party at Jess and Marie's apartment, both Harry and Sally have dates. Harry winces when Julian (Franc Luz) kisses Sally, and Sally notices but tries to ignore Harry kissing a much-younger, naive Emily (Tracy Reiner). That night as Harry resists, but then superstitiously reads the last page of Robert Ludlum's The Icarus Agenda, Sally telephones, distressed after learning that her former lover is planning to get married. Harry arrives at Sally's apartment to comfort her. Dressed in a bathrobe, she is a sobbing, hysterical mess of emotions over the "news" of the loss of Joe, and she blames her own controlling rigidity for losing him:

She works in his office. She's a paralegal. Her name is Kimberly. He just met her. She's supposed to be his transitional person, she's not supposed to be the one. All this time, I've been saying that he didn't want to get married. But the truth is he didn't want to marry me. He didn't love me...I'm difficult...I'm too structured. I'm completely closed off...I drove him away.

During her rag-doll cry-fest, Harry soothes Sally's hurt when she begins to irrationally lament her age:

Sally: And I'm gonna be forty.
Harry: When?
Sally: Someday.
Harry: In eight years.
Sally: But it's there, it's just sitting there like this big dead end. And it's not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had babies when he was seventy-three.
Harry: Yeah, but he was too old to pick 'em up.

Harry gives her a hug to assure her that she will be fine. When he suggests leaving to make some tea, she asks to be held a little longer, and then she approaches for a kiss - her hunger for more affection leads to their sleeping together. After winding up in bed and making love with Sally (who sports a big grin on her face in the next scene), Harry can only stare straight ahead - stunned by the surprising but horrifying experience. While she is in the kitchen getting water to drink, he is reminded of her fastidious nature when he rifles through her index card box with all her videotapes alphabetized.

The next morning when Sally awakens, Harry is getting dressed and wants to leave: "I gotta go home, I gotta change my clothes, and then I have to go to work and so do you, but after work, I'd like to take you out to dinner if you're free." After Harry departs, both Marie and Jess receive separate phone calls from Harry (at a pay phone) and Sally (in bed). In a 4-way shot of all of them on-screen, Marie and Jess listen to simultaneous renditions of the previous night's love-making. They are relieved and overjoyed that "they did it."

Marie (to Sally): That's great Sally.
Jess (to Harry): We've been praying for it.
Marie: You should have done it in the first place.
Jess: For months, we've been saying, you should do it.
Marie: You guys belong together.
Jess: It's like killing two birds with one stone.
Marie: It's like two wrongs make a right.

When the call is finished, Marie asks Jess: "Tell me I never have to be out there again." Both Harry and Sally describe their second thoughts about moving from a platonic relationship to a sexual one in an overlapping dialogue - the sex "was good" but then Harry "felt suffocated" and "had to get out of there." Sally felt abandoned: "He just disappeared...I'm so embarrassed."

As Sally puts on her makeup in front of her bathroom mirror - and as Harry showers in his bathroom, they express similar reactions (in voice-over):

Sally: I'll just say we made a mistake ... I just hope I get to say it first.
Harry: Sally, it was a mistake ... I hope she says it before I do.

That night at dinner, both agree: "We just never should've done it." Mutually relieved, they both silently eat (and noisily chew) mixed green salads. Later, Harry confides to Jess, as they are power-walking in the park, about how his friendly familiarity with Sally made their sex an after-thought:

It's just like, most of the time you go to bed with someone and then she tells you all her stories, you tell her your stories, but with Sally and me we'd already heard each other's stories, so once we went to bed, we didn't know what we were supposed to do, you know?...I don't know, maybe you get to a certain point in a relationship where it's just too late to have sex, you know?

As Marie is fitted for her wedding dress in a department store, Sally asks her about Harry's recent dating partner who is described as:

Thin. Pretty. Big tits. Your basic nightmare.

At the wedding reception following the marriage of Marie and Jess (with Harry as best man and Sally as maid of honor), three weeks after their sexual night together, Sally is uncomfortable and wants to forget being involved with Harry:

Harry: Why can't we get past this? I mean, are we gonna carry this thing around forever?
Sally: Forever? It just happened.
Harry: It happened three weeks ago. You know how a year to a person is like seven years to a dog?
Sally: Yes...Is one of us supposed to be a dog in this scenario?
Harry: Yes.
Sally: Who is the dog?
Harry: You are.
Sally: I am? I am the dog?
Harry: Um-hmm.
Sally: I am the dog. I-I don't see that Harry. If anybody is the dog, you are the dog. You want to act like what happened didn't mean anything.
Harry: I'm not saying it didn't mean anything. I am saying why does it have to mean everything?
Sally: Because it does, and you should know that better than anybody because the minute that it happens, you walk right out the door.

Sally won't countenance one-night stands with an uncommitted man, sensing that she was treated like all his other women when he walked "right out the door" - "sprinted is more like it." Foolishly defending himself to make things perfectly straight, Harry asserts: "I did not go over there that night to make love to you. That is not why I went there. But you looked up at me with these big, weepy eyes. 'Don't go home tonight, Harry. Hold me a little longer, Harry.' What was I supposed to do?" Interpreting his love as pity, she slaps him across the face to dissolve their friendship:

Sally: What are you saying? You took pity on me?
Harry: No, I was...
Sally: F--k you!! (She slaps him hard across the face)

As they barge back into the wedding reception, they interrupt the toasts being made to them by Jess:

If Marie or I had found either of them remotely attractive, we would not be here today.

After buying a tree in a Christmas tree lot during the next year's holiday season, Sally struggles by herself to bring it back to her apartment. Harry leaves a message on Sally's answering machine, reminding her of - "the season of charity and's also the season of groveling." Sally repeatedly refuses to pick up the phone to talk to Harry - not wanting to be reunited with her former friend. When they finally do talk briefly, Harry proposes going to the Tyler's party for New Years, but Sally wants nothing more to do with him:

Harry:...'Cause I don't have a date, and if you don't have a date, we always said that if neither one of us had a date... we could be together for New Year's...
Sally: I can't do this anymore. I am not your consolation prize. Goodbye.


A forlorn Harry watches television's sixteenth annual New Year's Rockin' Eve, hosted by Dick Clark, while eating Mallomars ("the greatest cookie of all time"). Across town at a lavish New Year's Eve party in a hotel, Sally has been reluctantly dragged by Marie to the festivities and is unhappily dancing with a tall man. Rationalizing that it is "the perfect time to catch up on my window shopping," Harry walks the streets of New York - all to himself.

He finds himself under the Washington Square Arch where Sally dropped him off after their car ride - twelve years earlier. In a voice-over flashback during a montage of images, he imagines their earlier conversation about how "the sex part always gets in the way" of a friendship between men and women.

Harry: You realize, of course, that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I'm saying is that men and women can't be friends, because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That's not true.
Harry: No man can be friends with a woman he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: What if they don't want to have sex with you?
Harry: Doesn't matter..because the sex thing is already out there, so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally: Well, I guess we're not gonna be friends, then.
Harry: Guess not.
Sally: That's too bad. You were the only person that I knew in New York.

With Sinatra's "It Had To Be You" on the soundtrack, Harry's pace quickens as he begins to make a race through Manhattan toward the formal party. [Note: The long shot of Harry running closely resembles Isaac Davis' (Woody Allen) run to Tracy's (Mariel Hemingway) apartment at the climax of Manhattan (1979). Both include a deadline -- Harry is trying to beat the toll of midnight on New Year's Eve, and Isaac is trying to catch Tracy before she leaves for London (though he does not know at the time that she is leaving.)]

Painfully lonely after ditching her date, Sally has decided to leave before midnight: "The thought of not kissing somebody is just..." Harry rushes in - sweaty and dressed in jeans - looking for Sally. When he finds her, he professes his undying love for her, as the countdown to the New Year and the playing of Auld Lang Syne occur in the background:

Harry: I love you.
Sally: How do you expect me to respond to this?
Harry: How about you love me, too?
Sally: How about, I'm leaving.
Harry: Doesn't what I said mean anything to you?
Sally: I'm sorry, Harry. I know it's New Year's Eve. I know you're feeling lonely, but you just can't show up here, tell me you love me, and expect that to make everything all right. It doesn't work this way.
Harry: Well, how does it work?
Sally: I don't know, but not this way.
Harry: How about this way? I love that you get cold when it's seventy-one degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're lookin' at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely. And it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
Sally: (feeling manipulated but also melting) You see. That is just like you, Harry. You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you, and I hate you, Harry. I really hate you. I hate you.

They kiss, and kiss. Harry attempts to describe the meaning of the song Auld Lang Syne (Scottish words, meaning 'Old Days Gone By') - the actual plotline of the film itself:

Harry: What does this song mean? My whole life, I don't know what this song means. I mean, 'Should old acquaintance be forgot'? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?
Sally: Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it's about old friends.

They kiss again as the camera pulls up and away from them, showing them engulfed by others on the dance floor. In voice-over, they remember their circuitous route toward falling in love and acknowledging that romance and friendship are not mutually exclusive:

Harry: The first time we met, we hated each other.
Sally: No, you didn't hate me, I hated you. And the second time we met, you didn't even remember me.
Harry: I did too, I remembered you. The third time we met, we became friends.
Sally: We were friends for a long time.
Harry: And then we weren't.
Sally: And then we fell in love.

In the final scene, they become the film's seventh and final testimonial to love - seated on the same loveseat as all the other elderly couples:

Woman: Three months later, we got married.
Man: It only took three months.
Woman: Twelve years and three months.
Man: We had this - we had a really wonderful wedding.
Woman: It really was.
Man: It was great. We had this enormous coconut cake.
Woman: Huge coconut cake with the tiers, and there was this very rich chocolate sauce on the side.
Man: Right. Because not everybody likes it on the cake, because it makes it very soggy.
Woman: Particularly the coconut soaks up a lot of that stuff so you really - it's important to keep it on the side.
Man: Right...

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