Meeting for the first time as they leave college, Harry and Sally share the long drive to New York and immediately fall in hatred. But they keep bumping into one another every few years and even become close friends - despite Harry asserting that it's impossible for men and women to be platonic.
As soon as you hear that, you know what will happen. Much of the movie is inevitable, it's even predictable because it sticks closely to the romantic comedy format and yet it does it so well that you don't care. There's even one long, repeating gag that if you took a moment to think about it you would realise what the pay off was going to be and yet it comes as a big surprise at the very end of the film.
The writing and direction plays with the form and your expectations alike throughout, and with such good performances the film makes for a deliciously prickly ride with laugh-out-loud moments and scenes that resonate through the story.
Meg Ryan looks astonishingly young but she is the better actor of the pair in this case, partly because unusually for a Hollywood film the women characters are better written than the men. She carries off an uptight, rigid character so well that when she does the famous fake orgasm scene she has really been building to it throughout the film.
Billy Crystal gets some great lines and does well with them but at times his reforming New Man character can grate. Only a little, and chiefly as you near the conclusion, by which time you are so anxious for Harry and Sally to get together that you'd accept anything.
"When Harry Met Sally" is on Channel 4 at 10.00pm, Monday 5th February 2001.