The movie takes place over a number of years and follows Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) as they become friends, drift apart, and then eventually drift back together at a cliché New Years Eve party. It all starts when the Harry and Sally share a ride from Chicago to New York City. This is the first time that they discuss if men and women can be friends and have sex. They decide that they can’t, and eventually they go their separate ways. However, years later, Harry and Sally meet again on a plane and they discuss the same question. Both are now in relationships and Harry is about to get married. Harry ends up exclaiming that men and women can’t be friends even if they are in relationships with other people. Eventually they part ways again. THEN Harry and Sally meet again a few more years later, after Sally broke up with her significant other and Harry was left by his wife. This meeting happened in a bookstore and eventually led to dinner. Eventually, Harry realizes that he has a woman friend (Sally) and it stands against what he originally thought about men and women being friends. Their friendship develops and through complicated twist and turns they eventually grow apart BUT they do end up together in the end. (Hopefully that isn’t too confusing of a synopsis).
Overall, the film made me think of Plato’s Symposium, specifically Aristophanes speech. In his speech, he delivers the story of two halves. “When a person meets the half that is his very own, whatever his orientation, whether its to young men or not, then something wonderful happens: the two are struck from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they don’t want to be separated from one another not even for a moment” (192C). This quote seems applicable to When Harry Met Sally because when the two met, they seemed connected and the fact that they just kept running in to each other seemed like a work of the gods.
Though Harry and Sally met long before they became friends or even fell in love, they dated others and married others before they realized their true half. Aristophanes exclaims that, “if love is our guide and our commander. Let no one work against him. Whoever opposes Love is hateful to the gods” (193B). It took Sally and Harry ten years to realize that they were each others “halves” and because it took them so long it caused heartbreak and destruction (Harry’s divorce).
The last quote that I want to point out from Aristophanes’ speech is, “these are the people who finish out their lives together and still cannot say what it is they want from one another. No one would think it is the intimacy of sex-that mere sex is the reason each lover takes so great and deep a joy in being with the other” (192D). Harry and Sally do end up living their lives together and eventually getting married. Though their relationship was built on an ongoing friendship, not merely on sexual interest.
Speaking of sex, this is one of the funniest moments of the film: