In a movie not exactly rife with symbolism, the old couples stand out. Their existence is never explained, they appear during key moments in time, and each little snippet is structured quite similarly.
Shmoop smells a symbol.
While on one level, these old couple interviews act as a framing device for the screenplay (for more on that, see our "Point of View" section), we want to focus on what these adorable old folks have to do with Harry and Sally.
To do that, we need to take a closer look at their stories. Take, for example, the first couple we meet. Their interview goes a little something like this:
MAN: I was sitting with my friend Arthur Cornrom in a restaurant. It was an cafeteria and this beautiful girl walked in and I turned to Arthur and I said, "Arthur, you see that girl? I'm going to marry her, and two weeks later we were married and it's over fifty years later and we are still married.
Simple, right? It's a sweet love story that seems true to life but also has an air of romance. Could that be what we're in store for in this movie?
Then there's the second couple:
WOMAN: We fell in love in high school.
MAN: Yeah we were... we were high school sweethearts.
WOMAN: But then after our junior year his parents moved away.
MAN: But I never forgot her.
WOMAN: He never forgot me.
MAN: No, her face is burned on my brain. And it was thirty-four years later that I was walking down Broadway and I saw her come out of Toffenetti's.
WOMAN: And we both looked at each other, and it was just as though not a single day had gone by.
MAN: She was just as beautiful as she was at sixteen.
WOMAN: He was just the same. He looked exactly the same.
Totes adorbs, right? Pardon our squee. This story hints at how a love can endure—even strengthen —over time. And since Harry and Sally have a twelve-year love story, we think that's a fitting parallel, don't you?
Listen to Your Elders
We'd go through the other interviews, but we think you're getting the idea. These love stories, while unique in their own right, shed light on Harry and Sally's story. Sure, no two love stories are exactly the same, but what these old couples tell us—with their recounting of near-misses and second chances—is that love can happen even in the most unexpected ways. Some of the stories are sweet, some are messy, and some are downright hilarious.
And the best part is? They're true. Ephron based these stories on interviews she actually conducted with couples she knew, and then scripted them to be performed by actors. That faux-documentary style lends a bit of real-world legitimacy to Harry and Sally's story, and reminds us that their happy ending, while probably feeling like a one-in-a-million shot for them, is really just one of many.