Map by Tom Tian, AB’10

Old friends

An appreciation of Harry, Sally, and all the things they said.

It’s obvious why many University of Chicago alumni fall for Rob Reiner’s 1989 film When Harry Met Sally: the title pair doesn’t just meet cute; they meet on Harper Quad. Is it the ultimate UChicago movie? Up for debate. But with the film passing the quarter-century mark in 2014, two alumni super fans—Ingrid Gonçalves, AB’08, and Sean Carr, AB’90—discuss why they still love it, imperfections and all.

Where’s the rigor?

It always annoyed me that Sally meets Harry on the quads. Why would he drag all his stuff there? Can’t she just pick him up at his place? Even worse, they proceed to drive south into downtown, as if they’re coming from Northwestern or something. Guys, if you pass the Hancock on your way to New York, you’re going the wrong way.—IG

I (almost) saw Harry meet Sally

They filmed the movie’s opening scene during O-Week of 1988, my third year in the College. I remember seeing signs ahead of time saying the quad would be closed that morning and thinking I should wander over to watch. But what third-year gets up early during O-Week? By the time I made it to the quad, everything had wrapped. I half convinced myself that I saw extras wandering around in bell-bottoms, but I was probably conflating dull reality with later Marooncoverage. Also, not surprisingly, many people still wore bell-bottoms at UChicago in 1988.—SC

Of melons and men

At that moment I knew,” says an anonymous woman, one of several couples interviewed throughout the film, recalling the first time she met her longtime husband. “I knew the way you know about a good melon.” To me, though, melons are enigmatic and unpredictable. I’ve learned that a good one should smell fragrant and feel heavy for its size, but I’m never quite sure how it’ll taste until I’ve cut into it with a large knife—something I shouldn’t do to my husband.IG

Magical reading (on Harry’s habit of looking at a book’s last page first, in case he dies before he can finish it)

Once I start a book, I have to finish it. Maybe in the back of my mind I’m thinking I can’t die before I finish the book. So the instant I finish one book, I start another.—SC

Not T-shirt worthy, but...

Harry’s “Oh, but ‘baby fish mouth’ is sweeping the nation?”—from the Pictionary scene—isn’t so funny out of context, but it’s stuck with me. I now use it as shorthand to point out that someone is putting way too much energy into defending a ludicrous position. My wife, who’s seen the movie once or twice to my 10 or 15 viewings, has adopted this tactic as well, having more occasion to use it than I do.SC

In defense of reason

I love how Harry responds to Sally’s distress over her ex’s engagement: “If you could take him back right now, would you?” His attempt to fight feelings with logic is very UChicago—if not always effective. “No!” Sally responds, despite the indignant tears that continue to flow.IG


I think the only reason I’ve lived in the Midwest for three decades is the fall colors. So when the Midway or Kimbark Avenue can’t deliver the reds, oranges, and yellows I crave, re-watching When Harry Met Sally becomes essential. The Central Park trees seen through the windows of the Met are like a triple-espresso shot of autumn. Then there’s the Christmas-in-Manhattan montage set to Ray Charles’ cozy, urbane take on “Winter Wonderland.”SC

The big question

Can men and women be friends? My husband and I met during O-Week and remained close friends for three years. As Harry observes, a platonic relationship has its advantages: “I don’t have to lie, because I’m not always thinking about how to get her into bed. I can just be myself.” By spring quarter of fourth year, though, we caved and started dating—and skipped right over the stressful, sometimes deceitful get-to-know-you stage. I have several other longtime male friends, so I do think platonic opposite-sex relationships are possible. But sometimes they’re the beginning of something more.IG

Bottom line

As befits a story about two UChicago grads, this movie is economical: 12 years—“12 years and three months,” Sally would insist—in 90 minutes and change. Yet it never feels like a sprint. Every scene—every moment—is crafted for maximum character, story, and (of course) laughs. It’s so tight, they even have time to summarize everything at the end. H: “The third time we met, we became friends.” S: “We were friends for a long time.” H: “And then we weren’t.” S: “And then we fell in love. Three months later we got married.” Yes, you can borrow my Kleenex.SC