Regent Film Library Spotlight: “Sleepless in Seattle”
Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, “Sleepless in Seattle” has been a beloved romantic comedy and one of Nora Ephron’s most successful films since its release in 1993. Most romance films focus on how two lovers develop their relationship after they meet. However, “Sleepless in Seattle” focuses on the journeys of lovers meeting for the first time–and the challenges they must face to find each other.
At the beginning of the film, Sam Balwin (Hanks) thinks he could never fall in love again. He is close with his ten-year-old son Jonah, but since losing his wife, Sam’s life in Seattle, WA hasn’t been the same. Eighteen months after the wife’s death, on the night before Christmas, Jonah calls a radio show called “Sleepless in Seattle” and asks for someone to help his dad with his grief. Soon, Sam finds himself opening his heart to a counselor over the radio–and to thousands of other women throughout the country. Not only does Sam learn to let go of lost love, but he chooses to find it again in another woman.
Annie Reed (Ryan) thought she found her true love. Even after an awkward Christmas Eve dinner with her family and her unimpressive fiancee Walter, Annie didn’t question her devotion towards her fiancee. Annie also found comfort living as a journalist in Baltimore, MD. However, when Annie hears Sam’s story over the radio, she’s moved to tears and wishes to write a news story about him. As fate brings her closer to Sam, Annie finds herself wondering if her heart belongs to him.
What Went Well in the Movie
Although the film includes some suggestive language and crude jokes about dating, the film doesn’t show any explicit love scenes. The gentle, lighthearted humor between Sam, Annie, and their friends and family creates a sweet and charming mood in the film.
Sam Baldwin is a lovable and relatable character throughout the movie. His initial stubbornness against dating reveals his strong devotion towards his deceased wife. Sam starts dating again after taking advice from friends, but he’s still cautious about opening himself to others. Even when Sam comes off as socially awkward, his willingness to accept advice from others makes him even more innocent and relatable. Sam occasionally experiences tension with Jonah, but overall, he’s patient with his son. Even though Jonah compels Sam to talk about his grief on a live radio station, Sam doesn’t reprimand Jonah but instead accepts his good intentions.
What Could Have Been Better
Granted, this movie is a comedy and is therefore supposed to be “unrealistic” to some extent. At several points in the movie, the characters in “Sleepless in Seattle” satirize themselves by referring to the 1957 chick movie “An Affair to Remember.” So, the film may not appeal to viewers who prefer more “realistic” films. One issue I had with the film is the slow pace. Sam and Annie are apart for most of the film struggling to understand themselves and find each other. It was an interesting yet drawn out storyline.
Throughout the movie, Annie struggles between her devotion to Walter and her admiration for Sam. Although Annie’s fiancee Walter seems dull and awkward, he shows a genuine devotion toward Annie. On Christmas Eve, Walter makes great efforts to impress Annie’s family. Even so, like thousands of other women in the United States, Annie quickly feels attracted to Sam after listening to him over the radio. The movie also reveals how Annie is obsessed with the film “An Affair to Remember” and how she “fell in love” with Walter by coincidence. Hence, viewers may see some of the conflicts in the movie as unrealistic or irrational.
Although it wasn’t my favorite romantic comedy due to the slow pace, I enjoyed “Sleepless in Seattle” for its light humor and fascinating twist on a traditional understanding of romance. Many romance films often neglect the circumstances that occurred so that lovers could meet for the first time. When people watch “Sleepless in Seattle,” much of their enjoyment comes from seeing the hand of God or fate guiding lovers physically and emotionally closer with each other.