“What Happens Later” stars David Duchovny as Bill and Meg Ryan as Willa. Prowess Pictures

“What Happens Later”… A ghost story?

This is what the promo of “What Happens Later,” Meg Ryan’s new film, tells us. Now remember, “What Happens Later” was originally a two character stage play, “Shooting Star,” by Steven Dietz.

Two ex-lovers, Bill (David Duchovny) and Willa (Meg Ryan) get snowed in at a regional airport overnight. Indefinitely delayed, Willa, a magical thinker, and Bill, a catastrophic one, find themselves just as attracted to and annoyed by one another as they did decades earlier.

But as they unpack the riddle of their mutual past and compare their lives to the dreams they once shared, they begin to wonder if their reunion is mere coincidence, or something more enchanted.

Yes, there it is, enchanted, like a ghost story, which, in this reviewer’s opinion, it really is. Two lovers from long ago sitting in a majestic “celestial” airport, with an announcer’s Godly voice (Hal Liggett) moving them along with instructions.

“Look up … I said, look up at the screen,” the voice repeats.


Someone once said, “In every man’s life, there is a summer and a girl.” We all have had our summers and the girl and survived. Here, in Ryan’s love story, is another.

This magical story is set in a snowed-in airport, with a lot of ghostly overhead shots and supernatural shadows.

In fact, Ryan shoots the airport in big, dark vistas as a super major “blockbuster” snowstorm grounds all the flights.

At first, there are a lot of folks milling about, as Bill and Willa see each other.

Willa eventually focuses on Bill in his corporate suit and tie, briefcase and good shoes, and Bill spots Willa imping down a long corridor, in a strange get up of what looks like a nightgown or hospital gown, and a large dark overcoat; her golden hair, long and tousled. She’s obviously in pain. (She actually had a hip problem, even stars get old.)

Fumbling with their luggage, they finally join one another, and speak in short sentences and let their pasts come spilling out. Here, we learn that they haven’t seen each other in 22 years.


In the course of the movie, as the crowd begins to evaporate, they sit in various black plastic or metal chairs, far apart in wide shots, until gradually, as we move along, they come closer together, and in the last half hour, are left holding one another, while old secrets and long ago misunderstandings spill out over each other like the snow, only seen outside the massive windows.

It’s in one of those final scenes when Willa moves in whispering the darkest secret into Bill’s ear, that his expression and everything else changes.

But Duchovny? Really? He’s a pleasant guy with one expression, one that hasn’t changed since “The X-Files.”

Didn’t Ryan or anyone in that vast array of wordsmiths secretly wish that Tom Hanks could magically step in and make this come alive? Of course they did, but Hanks had a lot of other work to do.

With this quirky, lovable offering, wish the best for Meg and her future, but the dreamer in this ex-actor/reviewer imagines that a box set of Hanks and Ryan films would make history:

— “Joe and The Volcano”


— “Sleepless in Seattle”

— “You’ve Got Mail”

— “Ithaca”

Too much Hanks and Ryan?

Remember that Spencer and Katherine made nine films together, and William Powell and Myrna Loy shared 13 films, and not all were “Thin Man” features.

The screenplay, taken from Dietz’s play was aided by Kirk Lynn and director Meg Ryan.


Ryan clearly got a lot of help from director of photography Bartosz Nalazek. His splendid hand added the magic she needed.

And a fun array of great artists and their music added the final touch.

“What Happens Later” opens Friday, Nov. 3, at the Maine Film Center.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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