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SUNDANCE 2023 Premieres

Review: Rye Lane


- It’s hard not to fall for Raine Allen Miller's rom-com, and for one starry food-themed cameo

Review: Rye Lane
David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah in Rye Lane

Britain’s Rye Lane [+see also:
film profile
is a reminder of why, after years of non-stop mockery, the world could actually use a few more rom-coms. It’s sweet, funny and it makes you – shocker – feel good. Debut feature director Raine Allen-Miller knows her genre and ticks all the boxes: there is a meet-cute (in a public bathroom), the classic this will-they-won’t-they dynamic, bright colours, some affection and a guy dressed as a cowboy walking around in the background – no clue as to why.

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In the film – shown at Sundance – complete strangers Dom and Yas (David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah) do what Nicole Holofcener told everyone to do back in 1996: they are walking and talking. Dom is in crisis, weeping openly in a bathroom stall in South London after seeing his ex move on with a new guy, who also happens to be his best buddy – all thanks to the heart-wrenching torture that is social media. Yas, who just popped in to pee, is intrigued. And sympathetic, as she has also been hurt. They bond, they laugh, they enjoy something that happens way too rarely in life: a perfect day. There will be a conflict of course, but come on – there is no real rom-com without it, and Julia and Sandra can prove it.

What makes it feel fresher is the fact that Allen-Miller embraces the naughty – in this film, you actually recognise your girl’s secret lover by his penis. Also, Yas is not another rom-com “klutz,” gorgeous yet pretending to be plain-looking, sad-drinking somewhere to All by Myself. She feels stronger than Dom the accountant, at least at the beginning, and also much cooler. But this dynamic will change.

Allen-Miller creates her own universe here, interestingly shot by Olan Collardy, pleasant and quirky. There are mentions of Steve McQueen’s genius (“facts”) and a desire to flirt with pretty young “sockless wonders,” a vinyl heist and a cameo of a certain A-lister looking all grumpy, working in a joint with a name so idiotic it definitely shouldn’t be spoilt. It needs to be said, however, that Rye Lane seems to be borrowing from children’s film aesthetic at times. It must be all these bright colours.

It's a lot, sure, and it feels too damn sweet on occasion and any karaoke sequence should now be off limits at least for a year or two. But Rye Lane is a celebration of being young, of having all the time in the world, of meeting someone new on a sunny day – so far, so very Before Sunrise. But also of the simple fact that “everyone has a mess.” We do. We really, really do, so any film that makes you happy, even a little, is to be cherished.

Rye Lane was produced by Searchlight Pictures, BBC Films, the BFI, DJ Films and Turnover Films.

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