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Review: ‘Rye Lane’ is a British rom-com that’s cute, hilarious and full of life

Photo courtesy Searchlight Pictures

By Arman Saxena     4/4/23 10:34pm

Rating: ★★★★

One of the first signs that signal to the audience about what kind of movie “Rye Lane” will be is how colorful it is. This is director Raine Allen-Miller’s first feature film, yet she has already crafted a distinct visual signature, characterized by an almost perpetually moving camera, central framing and vibrant hues filling each frame. 

The opening shot of the film is an overhead sequence that features scenes throughout London bathrooms, from a fight in a club bathroom to teenagers taking mirror selfies. The film is named after a real market in London, Rye Lane Market, that is located in the South London district of Peckham, a predominantly Black area and one of the most ethnically diverse districts in the UK. The majority of the film is set in the real-life districts of Peckham and Brixton, and Allen-Miller realizes these areas with incredible specificity, capturing the energetic markets, constant bustle and memorable personalities of the area. The film replicates this energy, quickly immersing the audience into these characters’ lives without slowing down for a breezy 82 minutes. 

The film’s fantastic pacing also owes itself to Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia’s whip-smart screenplay, full of funny one-liners, emotional call backs and banter that spotlights the immense chemistry the two leads have with each other. Both David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah look like they’re having the time of their lives in this film and their characters, Dom and Yas, feel vividly lifelike as a result. Both performers are young up-and-comers who still haven’t broken out, and their work in this film, at the very least, functions as a strong argument that they deserve so much more attention from the industry. Through their great work, both Dom and Yas come off as endearing, fun, human and all in all, people that you could see yourself hanging out with. Chemistry is one of the most important things in any romantic comedy, and this film has it in spades.

In terms of the story, while the film mostly adheres to traditional romantic comedy tropes, the specificity of the language, setting and the realization of the characters make the film feel simultaneously familiar yet unique. This is not a film that bowls its audience over with sudden emotion, it’s a low-key dramedy that sneaks up on its audiences with its genuine sweetness. Although the film doesn’t spend enough time with any of the side characters to flesh them out as anything more than two-dimensional pieces living inside Dom and Yas’ story, this is their story, and the jokes are almost nonstop and rarely miss.

The film is genuinely romantic and is a great date night movie that won’t challenge most people’s tastes. Through Jonsson and Oparah’s work, Dom and Yas seem perfect for each other. Even though the audience knows how the story will end, Allen-Miller and her team do a great job of working within the limits of rom-com tropes to craft a story that feels bright and sincere enough to keep its audience invested and swooning by the time the credits roll. This is an incredibly wholesome film and is already one of the best rom-coms of the 2020s so far.

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