Recently widowed, insomniac Sam Baldwin is coerced by his young son to talk about his loss on a late-night radio show and he touches the heart of the listening females. These include a young journalist living on the other side of the country, who picks up the story of his growing popularity.
A hugely enjoyable romantic comedy, directed by the writer of When Harry Met Sally, this attacks both funny bone and tear-ducts with equal success. When recently widowed architect Sam Baldwin (Hanks) is conned into taking part in a late night Christmas Eve phone-in radio talk show by his young son Jonah, his on-air "why-I-loved-my-wife" confession has heart-string tugging repercussions throughout the land as women all over America fall in love with the disembodied voice known only as "Sleepless in Seattle". These include lovelorn Baltimore journo Annie Reed (Ryan) who finds herself becoming increasingly obsessed by his description of his first meeting with his wife as "magic" and fears that if she marries her sensible but sterile fiance Walter (Pullman) she will settle for "satisfactory" rather than "magical".
As the offers of marriage flood in for "Sleepless", Jonah (Ross Malinger) takes it upon himself to play matchmaker and find himself a mother, and his dad a new wife from the thousands of applicants. Plucking from the burgeoning pile a letter purporting to be from Annie, who Jonah is convinced is the one, he hatches a scheme to introduce them, despite their living 3,000 miles apart.
Very much in the vein of When Harry Met Sally, this cannily uses clips from the 1957 Cary Grant vehicle An Affair To Remember to delightfully screwball effect, even going so far as to have Jonah arrange a meeting between Hanks and Ryan atop the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day. Conspiring to keep the star-crossed lovers apart for the majority of the film, Ephron's script is often uproariously funny (Hanks and buddy extolling the merits of The Dirty Dozen is especially memorable), while there is able support from O'Donnell and Rob Reiner as Annie's and Sam's best buddies respectively.
The soundtrack may be at times surprising (Jimmy Durante singing As Time Goes By?), and at times too literal for its own good (do we really need In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning to tell us what we already know?), but Ryan looks good enough to eat, Hanks women will find hard to resist, and the kid is one of the most appealing on screen for years. Shamelessly slushy fluff it may well be, but you'd have to be hard-hearted indeed to leave the cinema without feeling just that touch gooey inside. A real treat.
Not one of the cleverer rom-coms of this ilk... but sweet and touching nevertheless and Tom Hanks is always watchable