The still night air brings an eerie fog to settle on the moors. A wolf in the far-off distance howls momentarily before thinking better of it, quietly retreating so as not to draw unnecessary attention to itself. Even the crickets and the bullfrogs lay silent, as if waiting – waiting for an imminent regenesis too long promised, too long delayed.

Meg Ryan has returned.

We all well know the tales thanks to legend and prophecy. Ever since she disappeared into the mists of Avalon, Meg Ryan has waited, silent but sleepless, as if in Seattle, in a subterranean egg sack off the coast of Wales. There, she has waited to be born anew as the AARP-appropriate romcom empress that it was always her destiny to become. We’ve all heard the stories of her foretold return, when she will be as a cleansing and merciless flame to a world overgrown, and star in What Happens Later, only in theaters this fall. But what about the days that lead up to her departure? What was Meg Ryan doing before she slid, frictionless and unblinking, into the shadows, to gather her strength across the decades and wait for the right time to strike?

The answer: “TV, mostly. But she dipped her toe into directing, too.”

Ithaca (2015)

Meg Ryan in 'Ithaca'
Image via Momentum Pictures

In her final moments before departing this mortal plane that she might rest for eight long years, ‘90s pop culture icon Meg Ryan directed and starred in Ithaca. it was her last movie before her hiatus, ironically distributed by a company called Momentum. Released in 2015 and based on William Saroyan’s 1943 novel The Human Comedy, the film doubled as a reunion-slash-get together for Ryan’s family and colleagues. Tom Hanks, who starred with Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Joe Versus the Volcano, made the time to make an appearance, as did Ryan’s son, Jack Quaid. Ithaca wasn’t widely released or widely beloved, but it served as a directorial on-ramp for Ryan, who would go on to helm 2023’s What Happens Later after emerging from the darkness of nigh-on a decade spent learning the language of the shadows in the caves beneath R’lyeh.

Fan Girl (2015)

Meg Ryan taking a selfie in 'Fan Girl'
Image via ABC Family

Fan Girl is to All Time Low what Detroit Rock City was to KISS, minus all of the stuff that you can’t put in an ABC Family movie, like drugs and Gene Simmons. The feature debut of director Paul Jarrett had a pretty stacked cast, especially in hindsight. A pre-Booksmart Beanie Feldstein showed up for work, as did a recently de-30 Rocked Scott Adsit. Kiernan Shipka, no longer a Mad Men girl but not yet a teenage witch, played the main character, a high school student intent on making a student film about her favorite band, and Meg Ryan played her mom. Fan Girl is absolutely available to rent wherever streaming films are bought and sold, and it represents the last thing besides Ithaca that stood between Meg Ryan and the dreamless slumber of the Night-Beyond-Night, the plane where all Blockbuster Entertainment Award winners must rest when the time comes.

Kate and Leopold (2001)

Kate and Leopold in 'Kate & Leopold'
Image via Miramax

It would be dishonest to imply that Meg Ryan did nothing else between 2001 and 2015. There was the unaired pilot for How I Met Your Dad, Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to How I Met Your Mother in which Ryan took up the Bob Saget mantle, narrating from an unseen future. There was In the Land of Women in 2007, My Mom’s New Boyfriend and a remake of The Women in 2008, and Serious Moonlight in 2009, in which Ryan tapes a man to a toilet. 

But the combined box office takes of all of these films can’t hold a candle to 2001’s Kate & Leopold, the last Meg Ryan movie to make the better part of $100 million. It’s the story of a woman named Kate (Ryan) meeting a man named Leopold (Wolverine). Leopold is a time traveler from a time when men knew how to be gentlemen and women weren’t allowed to vote, and Kate follows him into the past when she falls in love with him. There’s no such thing as mouthwash or penicillin where they wind up, so it’s safe to assume that the romance doesn’t last a super long time after the credits roll, but what’s important is that they seem happy.

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By mrtrv

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