When Harry Met Sally and the Non-Seasonal Seasonal Film

Photo from cloudfront.net
Photo from cloudfront.net

There are some films that are meant to be watched at certain times of the year. Halloween is nearly upon us, and I’m sure there will be many a viewing party for Hocus Pocus, Friday the 13th, and of course, Halloween. At Thanksgiving, we’ll all watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and on Christmas, we’ll all watch It’s a Wonderful Life. But there are some films, at least for me, that became associated with a certain time of year for almost no conceivable reason. This weekend, my sister and I sat down to watch a movie that has become a fall favorite for us: When Harry Met Sally.

There is absolutely no reason that When Harry Met Sally should be associated with the fall. The film takes place over a period of several years, and depicts every season at some point during the story. Nothing terribly important to the plot is tied to the fall. In fact, some of the film’s most important, climactic moments occur on New Year’s Eve. But we don’t feel compelled to watch this movie on New Year’s Eve, or in the summer, or at any time of the year other than fall. Why?

Honestly, I don’t really know. My best guess is that the DVD box art–a shot from a particular scene in the film when Harry and Sally are walking through a park in the fall, many-colored leaves falling all around them–may have subconsciously become the iconic representation of the film for my sister and me. It probably also has everything to do with our mutual love of fall as a season. If a person hates fall, they may not associate this movie with fall. Unless they hate the movie, in which case they’re a terrible person, and not to be dealt with.

Also, this is a romantic comedy, and fall is just cuddle weather. Y’know? It’s cool and crisp, and there are hoodies and warm drinks and pumpkin spice. That can’t be just me.

Photo from imgarcade.com
Photo from imgarcade.com

But so this is the idea I wanted to get at. The idea that we can associate films with seasons or times of the year that are totally disparate from, or not necessarily connected to, the film itself. It’s a very personal, “films-as-art” sort of feeling to create from a film. Eventually it just becomes tradition that you repeat just to repeat it, but there’s always something behind it. It speaks to a forged personal connection to the film. It’s what makes sure that movie is always in your DVD collection, or on your hard drive, no matter where you go in life. Films can feel like a kind of home for people. It’s a way of establishing a norm through the feelings associated with these pieces of visual art. And I think that’s really beautiful.

There are some other examples of non-seasonal seasonal films I can give from my family’s own traditions. For one, we always watch Disney’s The Sword in the Stone (a wonderfully fun film that you should watch if you never have) on Thanksgiving Day. It has to be watched after the main meal and after the chocolate chip cheesecake has been brought out. Don’t ask me why. Just thinking about that weird, nonsensical tradition has stirred such warm, pleasant feelings of home within me that being at work right now (oops) is even more of a bummer than it could be otherwise.

There’s also The Quiet Man, which my family watches together every St. Patrick’s Day, which also happens to be my birthday. We’re a very Irish family, and this is a very Irish film. That’s about as close to reason as our traditions get. But I love it. It creates this sense of home that exists outside of any physical location. I’ve made my home in these films that frame my life. My years are marked by the films that I watch.

So what about you, dear reader? Are there any films you or your family just need to watch at certain times of the year for absolutely no reason? It’s more probable than not. The one thing that we, as human beings, all have in common is this: if you think long enough, you’ll find that something you do makes absolutely no sense. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

— Mike Egan, Film Blogger

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