What Happens Later

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

What Happens Later
dir Meg Ryan
scr Steven Dietz, Kirk Lynn, Meg Ryan
prd Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams, Laura Smith Ireland, Kristin Mann
with Meg Ryan, David Duchovny, Hal Liggett
release US 3.Nov.23,
UK 15.Dec.23
23/US 1h43

ryan duchovny

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duchovny and ryan
Based on Steven Dietz's play Shooting Star, this rather talky romantic comedy coasts easily on the charisma of Meg Ryan and David Duchovny. A two-hander set in an airport mid-journey, the setting is nicely evoked by Ryan's lively direction. This keeps the film watchable even amid the sometimes overwritten conversation and narrative, which spirals through a range of funny and emotional moods, plus a few fantastical flourishes.
Stranded in a strange airport during a blizzard on Leap Day, Willa (Ryan) runs into her ex Bill (Duchovny). Their reunion is prickly, and the travel conditions mean that they can't escape each other, remembering the good times and also why they broke up more than two decades ago. As the storm becomes increasingly disruptive, they have plenty of time to catch up on their lives. Bill talks about his wife and daughter, while Willa admits that her business is struggling. They also revisit some major events from their life together, which rekindles their intimacy.
Barbed dialog is livened up by whizzy camerawork and the sparky performances. This is essentially a long, rambling conversation during which Willa and Bill explore who they were and who they are now, revisiting memories through their distinct perspectives and realising that they can still provoke each other. They are also unable to simply ignore each other. So while some of what happens seems far-fetched, the film remains grounded in these two strong characters.

Now 60, but playing 50, Ryan and Duchovny are terrific on-screen, and have wonderfully nuanced banter with each other, reflecting the deep connection Willa and Bill once had as well as the lingering embers of their affection. In both the spiky comedy and warm drama, their interaction is knowing, rippling with implicit chemistry. Since they oddly never speak to anyone else, the only other character is the airport voiceover (Liggett), which begins to interact with Willa and Bill as ther layover extends. i

Sometimes the dialog feels a bit too clever, as it's peppered with travelling puns, on-the-nose sight gags, snappy wordplay and extremely astute observations. The central idea is that fate itself is trying to push them back together. There are a few perhaps overly kooky interludes along the way, like dancing or playing with travelators and electric carts. And a couple of plot points feel a bit formulaic. So it's the offhanded jokes and more improvisational interplay that keep the film fresh and entertaining, while the underlying themes give us something to chew on.

cert 15 themes, language 14.Dec.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall