When it comes to writing film reviews, you need to be able to cover all of the important aspects of a movie. This includes the film’s plot, actors, and director.
After an eight-year hiatus, Meg Ryan returns to the screen as both a star and a director with What Happens Later. The film is a romantic comedy about two former lovers who reconnect while waiting out an airport delay caused by a snowstorm.
What Happens Later is Meg Ryan’s second directorial effort and her return to the rom-com genre that made her a star. The film stars her former X-Files co-star David Duchovny and focuses on Bill and Willa, a pair of opposites-attract college sweethearts who meet again in an airport after their flights are canceled on a stormy night.
Despite being trapped in the terminal overnight, Bill and Willa manage to use the time to unpack their baggage and discuss the hardest moments of their failed relationship. They share some insightful dialogue and the occasional moment of deeper introspection, but these moments are drowned out by endless bickering and Willa’s problematic spiritual worldview.
What Happens Later might have worked as a short film or 30-minute TV episode, but it doesn’t hold up to the scrutiny of a feature-length movie. The solarmovie film lacks charm and becomes cloying as it goes on. This Bleecker Street release is rated R for language, some sexual content and drug use.
After a long absence from the big screen, Meg Ryan is back with What Happens Later. The former queen of rom-coms stars in and directs this Bleecker Street release, which is based on the play Shooting Star by Steven Dietz. This film is centered around an airport layover between two ex-lovers as they relive the past and discuss their what-ifs.
The movie is a bit of a letdown for fans of Ryan’s rom-com classics such as Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. This is mostly because the movie sticks to the cliche elements of a romantic comedy.
Despite this, What Happens Later does manage to create some tension and chemistry between the characters. This is mainly because of the performances from both Ryan and Duchovny. Their characters have some history together and they do a great job of navigating the awkwardness of their reunion. Moreover, their conversations also reveal some truths about their relationship 25 years later.
It’s heartening to see the woman who elevated the rom-com game return to her genre of choice with a movie like What Happens Later. But this talky two-hander is a bit of a disappointment for those expecting the same flair that made When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle such enduring classics.
The initial setup — freewheeling Willa and strait-laced Bill bumping into each other while waiting for their flights during a snowstorm — is definitely rom-com material. But the way their conversation jumps between heavy topics (aging, parenting) and twee magic musings prevents any real tension to build.
This Bleecker Street release is more interested in capturing the characters’ awkwardness as they reminisce about their past relationship than building any kind of genuine connection with their audience. The result is a dull, sour two-hander that’s a far cry from the brilliance of Ryan’s earlier work. It’s a missed opportunity to give us the hope that second chance love stories can still be compelling and touching.
When the credits roll on What Happens Later, a dedication to Nora Ephron pops up and it’s clear the film was made in her honor. It’s the actress’s second directorial effort but this time, she’s also co-wrote and stars alongside David Duchovny.
The story revolves around two exes, Bill and Willa, who are stuck in a regional airport due to a snowstorm and end up connecting on the same flight. Their retread conversations and attempts to help each other get their lives on track make for an entertaining watch.
But the film’s reliance on cliche elements begins to wear thin after awhile. Also, the soundtrack is a repetitive mix of alternative hits that feel like Muzak in an airport setting. Nevertheless, the movie is charming and Meg Ryan shows that she’s still got it as both an actress and director. She and Duchovny are always appealing together and they make the film worth watching. Bleecker Street presents What Happens Later directed by and starring Meg Ryan with a screenplay by her, Steven Dietz and Kirk Lynn.