What Happens Later parents guide

What Happens Later Parent Guide

Awkwardly transitioning from stage to screen, this movie is every bit as boring as its airport setting.

Overall C

Theaters: Decades after breaking up, Bill and Willa find themselves trapped in a regional airport together where they start to unpack what happened to their relationship all those years ago.

Release date November 3, 2023

Violence A-
Sexual Content B-
Profanity D
Substance Use D+

Why is What Happens Later rated R? The MPAA rated What Happens Later R for language, some sexual references and brief drug use.

Run Time: 105 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Willa (Meg Ryan) is flying from Austin to Boston. Bill (David Duchovny) is flying from Boston to Austin. Somewhere in the middle of these two destinations, a terrible snowstorm occurs, forcing their respective planes to land at an unnamed airport.

While the unexpected delay is inconvenient, it doesn’t compare to the discomfort each of them feels when they spot their ex-lover. Trying to make the best of a bad situation, Willa and Bill make small talk about the twenty plus years that have passed since they last met. Willa grumbles about the aches and pains of getting old. Bill complains about a boss who is half his age. Both are vague about their present circumstances. Yet as the layover lengthens, the polite conversation gives way to criticisms, arguments and hurt feelings over unresolved issues from their shared past.

Normally I really enjoy dialogue-heavy movies that examine human relationships. But this one left me feeling like I too had been stuck in an airport for too long. It is obvious from the get-go that the film began as a play (Shooting Star). It is always a challenge to invent interesting visuals when adapting stage to screen, and this effort provides awkward blocking and terrible transitions. The script boasts only two characters (three if you count the unseen airport announcer voiced by Hal Liggett). Although that gives Ryan and Duchovny lots of camera time (perhaps the goal for these fading luminaries?), it also results in tedious talking and a plodding plot. Nor does it help that Meg Ryan stars in, directs, and co-writes the script. (As well, she and David Duchovny are listed as executive producers.) The project would likely have benefited from an objective observer suggesting (at the very least) tighter edits.

Now if you are wondering how a rom-com that never leaves a public gathering place could achieve an R-rating, you will be glad to know it is not the sexual content. The screenplay consists only of handholding and a couple of kisses, along with discussions about infidelity, open relationships, and unwed pregnancies. There is also some alcohol consumption and drunken behavior. The objectional material responsible for the strong warning are a depiction of illegal marijuana use and the utterance of fourteen strong sexual expletives (one of which is used in a sexual context). These inclusions seem unnecessary and come across as if they are there simply to add some “maturity” to a story that is clearly trying to attract middle-aged adults.

As Willa and Bill unpack their baggage, the former couple do share a few platitudes and the occasional moment of deeper introspection. However, most of the empathy these revelations are intended to engender are drowned out listening to the pair bicker. And after 105 minutes of that, who cares what happens later.

Directed by Meg Ryan. Starring Meg Ryan, David Duchovny. Running time: 105 minutes. Theatrical release November 3, 2023. Updated

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What Happens Later
Rating & Content Info

Why is What Happens Later rated R? What Happens Later is rated R by the MPAA for language, some sexual references and brief drug use.

Violence: :A character steals alcohol. Characters agree to exchange airplane tickets, even though it is illegal to do so.
Sexual Content::Characters discuss open relationships, exploring one’s sexuality, infidelity, and pregnancy outside of wedlock. Miscarriages and giving a child up for adoption are also mentioned. A man and woman are seen kissing and holding hands. Adults look for a hotel room: the opportunity for intimacy is implied. Some sexual slang is heard. Pornography is mentioned.
Profanity::A strong sexual expletive is used fourteen times, once in a sexual context. There is frequent use of scatological slang and terms of deity plus infrequent use of mild and moderate profanity, along with crude sexual slang.
Alcohol / Drug Use::Characters mention drinking beer and smoking pot. Adults drink alcohol in a bar and behave like they are inebriated. Later they drink and drive a golfcart. Characters are seen smoking marijuana while discussing why it is illegal to do so.

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What Happens Later Parents' Guide

As Willa and Bill discuss their broken relationship, they blame their immaturity, incompatibility, and lack of trust for one another. How do you feel about these issues? Do you think this couple is being truthful when they list these reasons? What other factors are affecting their commitment to one another? Do you agree with the decisions they made? 

In discussing the problems that caused their breakup, Willa says, “there are things you tell each other, things you tell your friends, and then there is the truth.”  Do you also tell your story differently to different audiences? Why is it so hard to talk about the truth?

The script asks: “Are you happy?” and “If we could see our memories, would we still do the same things?” How might contemplating these questions impact the choices you are making in your own life and in your relationships with others?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

This movie takes place on February 29, just like the romcom Leap Year. Another man gets stuck at an airport in The Terminal.

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