One of the biggest names in romantic comedies is making a return. Meg Ryan co-wrote, directed, and stars in the new film What Happens Later. The story follows two exes who end up snowed in at an airport together, over two decades after they broke up.

Ryan plays Willa, a magical thinker, opposite David Duchovny as Bill, a catastrophic one. When they happen to cross paths, the pair 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.

Meg Ryan & David Duchovny Bring Great Chemistry To ‘What Happens Later’

What Happens Later succeeds most in making Willa and Bill feel real, not just in their shared past but as two people who’ve really lived through life. They’re a bit more jaded, a bit more closed-off, a bit more cynical (realistic?) than the leads of your typical rom-com, because they’ve experienced real loss and heartbreak and setbacks. 

Ryan and Duchovny have great rom-com chemistry. What Happens Later is by far at its best in the moments that revolve around these two letting loose and bantering back and forth. Their comedic timing is on point, and their interactions always feel suffused with their characters’ shared history; audiences will have no trouble believing that once upon a time they were each other’s person. (Maybe the key to a successful Duchovny romance is to pair him with a woman who’s simultaneously exasperated and charmed by his presence.) 

And unsurprisingly, Ryan certainly knows how to hit a romantic story beat. What Happens Later isn’t about the romance of grand gestures, but rather the romance of a life’s smaller and simpler pleasures: acts of service that demonstrate an intimate past; little moments of “here’s something we only do with one another”; dancing like no one’s watching; tender kisses to foreheads and hands. It’s about the love that we carry with us every day for people who aren’t in our lives anymore, and how that love is painful and comforting all at once.

Maybe not the rom-com you’re expecting…

Despite its dedication to Nora Ephron, What Happens Later is not When Harry Met Sally or You’ve Got Mail. Though billed as a rom-com, it sometimes feels more like a romantic drama than comedy; there’s a realism in some of the serious discussions that adds to the characters, but can feel a bit at odds with the expectations of the genre.

Similarly, that realism butts awkwardly against the sillier, cheesier aspects of the film that feel more stereotypically “rom-com coded.” (There are elements of a sort of magical realism to Bill and Willa’s meet-up, from the way they often seem to be the only two people in the entire airport to a series of overused, on-the-nose loudspeaker reminders offering guidance on their “connection.”)

As a result, What Happens Later doesn’t consistently have the lighthearted, happily-ever-after vibe characteristic of most popular rom-coms. So, it may not be what audiences are looking for when they hear Ryan’s name and the rom-com billing. Still, if you prefer your romance stories a little more grounded (or a little more bittersweet), a pair of W. Davis-es just might fit the bill.

What Happens Later premieres in theaters November 3.