Meg Ryan and David Duchovny In Bleecker Street’s What Happens Later
Bleecker Street’s What Happens Later does the unthinkable. We get to see rom-com legend Meg Ryan return to the screen for the first time in nearly a decade and direct her second film ever. But almost more impressive is that we witness the romance of an airport.
Arriving in theaters on Nov. 3, What Happens Later sees what happens when two former lovers, practical Bill (David Duchovny) and whimsical Willa (Ryan), cross paths in an airport and get snowed in overnight. With nowhere to go, the two are forced to confront what happened between them decades ago. All the while, they also come face to face with the people they’ve become.
Ahead of the premiere, Modern Luxury spoke with Ryan and Duchovny about the film.
Meg, when What Happens Later was initially presented to you, what was it about the story that incited you to return to film for the first time in eight years?
MR: Well, I thought that just how distilled the story was, I thought it was a real opportunity to do a twofer: to do a movie with just two characters that is essentially about the past without making it all about exposition. It was the math problem of it that was a challenge and fun. And then that it's from the perspective of two people who are looking back and trying to make sense of a life not lived together. It moved me that they, underneath everything, are asking, “What was it about me? Why didn't you love me enough to have a life together?” That's a moving question. And then, on top of all of that, the banter, which is really fun. Especially if it can be layered on top of a conflict like that.
DD: You get to actually see and experience why these two people might have fallen in love with each other in the first place through that electric banter. Even though they descend into re-litigating the past.
MR: And the connection and the disconnection—just when you think they got it together. Nope. These are people who are forever, in a way, in that loop.
DD: It's like one of those Greek myths where something is constantly happening forever.
MR: Forever and ever.
DD: You’re trapped in that airport.
MR: Yeah, that’s how I felt.
DD: You know that those planes have taken off, but they're coming right back.
MR: And even how they end, they're in the same dynamic. These two characters are in the same dynamic.
Generally speaking, not only is an airport not romantic, but it’s basically if chaos was a place. Do we see Willa and Bill get so honest because they are forced to come face to face and have nowhere they can go or is it just the delirium that comes with being in an airport?
MR: The invitation to the conversation is because it's a liminal space. There's so many of these transformational spaces in our lives that we sometimes don't notice. But when you go to an airport, you are no longer in control. You're in the hands of fate and other other forces. And the idea that those forces are magical and benevolent was just a fun locus for the film.
In the spirit of this film being a romantic comedy, what can audiences learn from What Happens Later about love?
MR: This seems like the feat of a superhero just to try to get your facts straight with somebody. Just try, just really to figure out what happened and what was true. They have a desire to do that. They're willing to go on that journey. And they also are willing to forgive one another. They're also willing to surrender. And all of those things, all of that willingness, leads them to a magical space. And I think that's secretly a cool thing to be putting out into a cynical world. And sometimes it feels like the other thing this movie is about is that love is eternal and it's not really understandable. It's hard to figure out; it's not logical. Relationships are put into a world of logic sometimes and it's an amazing thing that this species believes they can conduct sustainable relationships. And this movie is just looking at that desire, looking at that endeavor.
DD: I go back to a line that my character says to Meg’s character: “This is exactly why I was in love with you and exactly why we broke up.” And I think that's the truth of love for so many people. It's like there's this push-pull. What’s magnetic to attract you is also, on the other side, repulsion, and a relationship is navigating those two poles of a magnet. Because you just can't have one without the other. That's just the way it goes, and that's what love is. And I think that really the whole movie is them giving up the fantasy that I can just take the parts of you that I like and take those, rather than I’ve got to take all of you and take that struggle.
Wow, that was a good one.
MR: Yeah, that was a good one. One more thing too. There’s this idea that heartbreak ultimately—I don't want to give too much away—they're able to be grateful for one another. To say in a tacit way, “I'm glad it was you who set me on the course to mend my heart.”
DD: Thank you for breaking my heart.
MR: Thank you for breaking my heart.
What Happens Later is now in theaters. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Bleecker Street