What Happens Later is a slow, dialogue-driven drama that misrepresents itself as a romantic comedy in an undisguised effort to leverage the undisputed romcom credentials of its star (and director) Meg Ryan. Sadly, it’s not funny. Or romantic. It’s merely melancholy, and boring. So if you’re expecting (or hoping for) anything along the lines of a Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, or Kate & Leopold, I suggest you find that fix among the formulaic holiday-season fluff currently populating Netflix, Lifetime, and Hallmark channels.

The film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It opens with a Nora Ephron vibe: It’s snowing! Two former flames with opposite personalities are serendipitously stranded together in a small regional airport! The universe obviously wants them to hash out what drove them apart 25 years earlier– and reclaim love lost! Bring on the ‘re-meet cute’!

But wait. Let’s abruptly shift gears and go for a Before Sunset vibe. Hash things out before the runways re-open and Bill (David Duchovny) and Willa (Ryan) can board their respective flights. Wade through the water under the bridge. Revisit what each remembers (or mis-remembers) about their time together. Point fingers. Apologize. Reflect. Reconnect.

And hey, let’s add a mystical element. Dim the lights and remove all traces of other people in the airport. Have the PA announcer be the only other presence, nudging the story along while keeping the couple grounded.

The film is based on the play “Shooting Star” by Steven Dietz, who co-wrote the screenplay. The minimal cast and sparse set probably seemed ideal for a low-budget, COVID-era production. It was enough to draw Meg Ryan back to acting after an eight-year hiatus. But ultimately, this may be a case of an intimate play simply not translating to the big screen.

On the plus side, it’s nice to see two familiar actors of similar age sharing the screen, re-evaluating their paths and choices. If only…

If only it were an actual romcom.

What Happens Later launches On Demand November 28.

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