Chronological, with Framing Faux-Documentaries
When it comes to romantic comedies, it's all about the meet-cute.
What's a meet-cute, you ask? Allow this key scene from the movie The Holiday to explain. A meet-cute refers to the moment in a romantic comedy when the OTP meets—usually in a cute way.
In the case of When Harry Met Sally, we have not one, not two, but three meet-cutes. Now there's something new. Ephron manages to take this tired old genre cliché and enliven it, giving us an opportunity to learn about the characters while also learning to root for their relationship.
The Old Folks
Throughout the movie, Ephron's screenplay uses the mock-interviews with old couples to act as a framing device for Harry and Sally's story. The movie begins with an old couple telling their story, and each time a large chunk of time passes, or the story takes a beat to pause in its chronology, we meet another old couple and hear their story.
Ephron saves the best for last, of course, bookending her movie with Harry and Sally's interview. It's as if she want us to understand that Harry and Sally have risen the ranks, have joined the romantic pantheon. Theirs is a love story worth remembering. But really, isn't everyone's? Include that of Ben Small, of the Coney Island Smalls?
Chronological, But Skippy
When Harry Met Sally doesn't pull any crazy tricks with time, but it's also not afraid to skip and jump when it needs to. The first twenty minutes or so of the movie span ten years rather breezily. Then the movie settles into a pretty normal chronology as it focuses on the development of Harry and Sally's friendship.