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Ensemble Plot

The first time I watched When Harry Met Sally a few years ago, my main takeaway was that Sally was her own person looking for love. After analyzing romantic comedies for several weeks, I recognized the ensemble plot in the movie. The many couples serve as a comparison between each other rather than the development of one courtship.

When Harry Met Sally features several clusters of lovers who get together and break up.


These couples get juxtaposed with an elderly couple's "single-shot testimonies" distinguishing themselves "from the fictive world of the film" (Grindon 161). Their stories of long and stable partnership serve as narrative markers to structure the film around and as a way to compare or contrast the fictitious action of the movie.


Harry compares his romantic situation to his ex-wife's, and Sally compares herself to her ex-boyfriend's new fiancé. Encountering their past partners or hearing updates about their lives helps Harry and Sally come to terms with their own emotions and drives the plot forward. The two also do not want to ruin their friendship, so they "arrange to set each other up with Jess and Marie. But instead, their friends are attracted to each other and emerge as the secondary couple" (Grindon 164). Even though Jess and Marie embark on a new romance, they include Harry and Sally in their relationship, which serves as another point of comparison.


Rather than a conflict of loyalty between friendship or pursuing love, the main character's friends are sources of support. Sally's relationship with her friend, Marie, is similar to the support system Lorelei and Dorothy share from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Marie and Jess act as sources of support, yet they have their own lives. The depth of Harry's and Sally's friends makes the characters feel more realistic when compared to other friend characters from different movies who exist only as a friend of the main character.


For instance, Sally and Marie reassure each other, as one says, "You're right, you're right, I know you're right." Sally reminds Marie that her crush on a married man will never leave his wife. Over time Marie comes to understand this and moves on. Another example of comfort from friends is the split-screen phone call "find Jess and Marie in bed, receiving simultaneous calls from Harry and Sally about their night together" (Grindon 165). Even though the ensemble plot includes multiple relationships, it does not deter the development of the main characters; instead, their plotlines intertwine to tell a story about friendship.

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