Much of the praise lavished on the late screenwriter and director Nora Ephron is reserved for When Harry Met Sally. But when it comes to Christmas time, the movie I always return to is her 1993 classic Sleepless In Seattle. It’s the supreme romantic comedy for me, because it has a seasonal edge. Its themes of fate, destiny and magic are heart-warming and believably immersed in a real life setting. In many ways, it’s a strong precursor to the recent favourite Love Actually.
Centring on recently widowed Sam (Tom Hanks) and his young son Jonah (Ross Malinger), the movie begins on Christmas Eve, when Jonah phones a radio show attempting to find a new wife for his father. He’s heard by Annie (Meg Ryan), driving to spend the holidays with her fiancée’s family. But across the night time airwaves – from Baltimore to Seattle – she feels a connection to the man and his son, and an anonymous courtship begins that feeds into romantic notions of a Christmas miracle.
Coming right off the back of the Harry Connick Jr. revival, the soundtrack features old jazz standards sung by everyone from Ray Charles to Nat King Cole, and is the kind of thing you might bring out at this time of year anyway. By the time the opening credits have finished rolling, it’s hard not to be bowled over with holiday spirit and romance. It reminds me of my childhood, and the hey-day of video rental, when I’d get to watch the latest releases with my parents at the weekend, and later, of watching classic Hollywood movies on Sky as a teenager.
Sleepless In Seattle is a movie drenched in nostalgia. It’s based on the 1957 movie An Affair To Remember, which the characters of Sleepless in Seattle discuss in comparison to their own situation, as the storyline plays out in parallel. The final scene, which takes place at the top of the Empire State Building, is a fulfillment of a promised reunion in the original Cary Grant movie that never actually happened. Clever, I know. Co-star Rosie O’Donnell complains of wanting “to be in love in a movie” – and who doesn’t? In my books, New York is the perfect setting for romance, but it’s also the capital city of Christmas. Alongside all the standard holiday films, Sleepless in Seattle is always a must watch for me.
This article originally appeared in SoSoGay magazine.