Movie-magic is one of the best elements of cinema-confection that exists. This is something that writer-director Nora Ephron understands fundamentally, and it is one of the reasons why her big breakthrough directorial effort Sleepless in Seattle was such a giant hit at the US box-office, becoming one of the best successes of 1993. Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the film is about two souls who should wind up together, as the audience is aware, but these characters don't exactly meet until the film's final moments are reached, when the romance and fantasy finally meets (metaphorically, of course) in an equally harmonious unison.
Romance in cinema isn't what it used to be: there used to be more films being made that had an idea of how to tell a romantic story, to make it memorable, but to also remember that film is an inventive medium in which fantasy can collide with the real world and allow for certain stories, remarkable ones, to be told in a unique way. Sleepless in Seattle is that sort of film, and it's an important style of filmmaking that is being forgotten by most filmmakers and studios today in favor of slight romance that doesn't remember to dream with lofty aspirations; to yearn inside while searching for beautiful romance that doesn't have to be a perfect representation of all in reality. In other words, Sleepless in Seattle represents cinema's romantic magic at its absolute best, and it brings audiences into it's beautiful dream-like state of wonder and it practically is radiating with a glowing sense of love that is rarely seen.
The plot of Sleepless in Seattle is quite charming and heartfelt by nature. Tom Hanks plays a lonely soul named Sam Baldwin who lost his wife to cancer and has to move to another state with his son in order to try and move-on from his everyday memories and recollections of his lost loved one, who he is reminded while he stayed put in the same place. Sam seems to think people only get to meet "the one" one time in life, and at the beginning of the film he wants to abandon dating and move away. Where does he move to? The wonderful Washington state city known as Seattle.
After it's been over a year without a real connection with another person, Sam begins to consider the possibility of dating again. How so? Sam's son, Jonah (Ross Malinger) is determined to help his father realize that he needs to have a human connection to someone: he calls up a talk radio show around Christmas-time and begins to talk about how he feels his dad needs someone and that his loneliness has prevented him from being the same since his mother's passing. The talk show host gets Sam on the phone and over the course of a few questions, Sam begins to share feelings about his wife and their relationship. He begins to speak with a romantic heart that is pure, and deeply hurt from his loss. Listeners tune in and it isn't long before he becomes a big sensation: many female-listeners tuned in, were moved by his words, and it leads to romantic love-letters and requests to meet Sam. No one was as moved by the speech or felt more of a connection than Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) and this is where the film becomes so romantic in aspirations. Would the two ever meet in real-life? Who knows... but with some movie-love magic there's a connection here that can't go unfulfilled and the two are destined to meet.
Over the course of the film, many events happen which would seem to suggest that these are characters meant to be together. And there also moments that suggest they may never get to meet. Yet the audience is along for the ride, and the movie-magic potion is worked to great perfection. Perhaps no character says it better than Becky (performed by Rosie O'Donnell), Annie's close friend, who suggests that she wants to "be in love in a movie". Don't we all? Cinema's romantic magic is one of the most essential of all filmmaking wonders and this particular film seems to understand that better than most.
This is one of the best films of the 1990's. There's something about the film that just sweeps audiences into its heart and soul. It helps that the film has some extraordinary performances. Both Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan had a lot to live up to for the film to have its full effect by conclusion. They manage to pull of terrific performances, and are charismatic together in creating these roles (having previously worked together on Joe Versus the Volcano, it's a wonderful thing to see these actors working together with such harmonious results).
The characters don't really actually speak to one another until the climax of the film, and the goal of the script and direction has some lofty aspirations in wanting audiences to see these characters as romantic soul-mates, especially given that both characters have not even gone out on a proper date by the time everything's over and the credits start to roll. Yet Nora Ephron manages a rare feat and pulls the huge task off well: audiences cheer for Sam and Annie to be together, happy, and in love. That's the magic of the movies. And it is truly a joy to behold.
Sleepless in Seattle arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition image which impressed on several levels. First of all, the distribution label Twilight Time continues to do an excellent job presenting films with an unfiltered presentation that doesn't have to deal with unnecessary and distracting DNR, grain removal, and other digital tinkering that ultimately just manages to be disappointingly utilized on some studio efforts. This is a genuinely effective transfer, one that manages to have good detail reproduction and clarity. The cinematography by Sven Kykvist (Ingmar Bergman's longtime collaborator) is really quite beautiful to behold. This is the best presentation of Sleepless in Seattle that I have seen.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is actually quite a bit better than I expected. The music soundtrack is crisp with hi-fidelity sound and greatly benefits from this uncompressed lossless audio upgrade. The dialogue is crisp, clean, and easy to understand. The score and music manages to add a nice dynamic to the sound field. It's not a surround-heavy mix. Nonetheless, the film does have some enveloping moments that sound wonderful.
The disc includes an Isolated Score Track (presented in lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio), which doesn't include the songs -- just the original score music, audio commentary with Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, a featurette entitled "Love in the Movies" which has 13 minutes of interviews with cast and crew about the film and cinematic love, the "When I Fall in Love" Music Video performed by Celine Dion & Clive Griffin, and the original theatrical trailer.
Fans of the best romantic films in cinema will want to add this gem from the 90's to their Blu-ray collections. With stellar leading performances by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, wonderful writing, and great direction, this is an excellent film that has stood up well over time. It utilized moments from An Affair to Remember creatively, told an ambitious romantic storyline quite well, and the results dazzled audiences in 1993. It should have the same effect on audiences today.
Fans will undoubtedly want to add this release to their collection: it features impressive PQ/AQ, and while its included extras aren't what some might consider "extensive" they are worthwhile inclusions that should still delight serious fans. As with other Twilight Time releases, the Blu-ray is included in the "Limited Edition Series", which means that the print run was limited to 3,000 copies and it is only available through the Screen Archives Collection website.