Early into Raine Allen-Miller’s Rye Lane, the London-set romantic comedy shows a sense of newness. Using fisheye lenses, zooming close-ups, and integrated flashbacks, this directorial debut feels undeniably modern. The comedy wants to reinvent past tropes, underlying British hip-hop and rap beneath the entirety of the speedy 82-minute runtime. It flies with London as a backdrop, a city that’s as alive as ever in this story. 

The script, written by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, follows Yas (Vivian Oparah) and Dom (David Jonsson), two young people who have recently had bad breakups. They find themselves at the same art showing, then walking in the same general direction. Breakup stories accompany their trip across the city, each of them helping the other with getting over their exes while also getting back at them. 

Oparah and Jonsson, both trained theater actors, thrive in these roles, bouncing off one another like ping pong balls in a wind tunnel, vibrating at the same wired, banter-laden frequency. They’re charming in their own ways, enjoyable to watch as a duo and as single performers, romping through the low lows and unforeseen highs of a breakup. Relatively unknown in the film space, Oparah and Jonsson seem perfect for this little walk-and-talk, newcomers who remain ever likable and warming hearts in the process. 

Rye Lane even has a cameo from a well-known British actor that will make most audiences cackle. It represents the film’s greatest asset: creativity. Allen-Miller has no interest in making an average film. Her inventiveness pops off the screen, a decision to show this couple with constant invention. Even the beginning suggests this originality, as Allen-Miller shoots above these walled places of privacy, panning over multiple stalls until she finds the two leads. 

She understands the importance of music to these two people, to 20-somethings in general, and to the moviegoing population. Featuring the music of A Tribe Called Quest and a major inclusion of Salt-N-Pepa, Rye Lane knows that these songs unite. They provide a soundtrack of heartbreak and reconciliation, of hope that love isn’t fully lost. The music choices only add to the collective enjoyment, the rollicking good time that Rye Lane turns out to be. 

Though the film might be reminiscent of other walk-about-town rom-coms that came before, Rye Lane carries a sense of freshness. It’s about these two people in this specific, 21st-century time. The film uses current societal jokes, hoping its audience understands cultural trends. All of this just adds to the sharp screenplay that Allen-Miller directs. The film has insight on how young people date––certainly how young people move on from relationships. 

The romcom fully understands the impact a single person or a single day can have. Meeting someone and spending time with them, talking about anything and everything, is a singular experience that won’t fade with a few days apart. There’s a profundity in the simplicity of it: choosing to continue being with someone just because you seem to be walking the same way. Being in the presence of a near stranger, who, a few hours later, might become a friend or even a love. That’s indescribable, but Rye Lane gets it pretty darn close. 

Rye Lane premiered at Sundance 2023 and arrives on March 31 on Hulu.

Grade: A-

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