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Review: Rye Lane (Disney+)

March 30, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah), the two protagonists of British filmmaker Raine Allen-Miller’s directorial debut Rye Lane, have their initial meet-cute through the dividing walls in the unisex bathroom of a South London art gallery.

Dom is crying in one of the stalls after a bad breakup, and Yas goes into the one next to him and asks if he is ok. They don’t see each other, but she clocks his pink sneakers under the stall door so she can re-introduce herself later on. This is the setup for an enjoyable and highly stylized modern rom-com, one that breezes by at just 82 minutes.

The Searchlight Pictures film (which made waves when it premiered at Sundance in January), proceeds to follow Dom and Yas as they spend the day together, getting to know each other as they go on a series of misadventures that involve confronting exes and trying to retrieve Yas’s A Tribe Called Quest record from her ex-boyfriend’s place.

The strangers falling in love over a day story is somewhat familiar, and Rye Lane doesn’t have quite as much depth to it as other staples of the genre like Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise or Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy. But Jonsson and Oparah inject life into the material, bringing a modern, youthful energy to it. The two leads have charming chemistry together as they bounce off each other, developing an easy rapport in the earlier scenes that gives way to more emotional moments later on.

The film’s broader, more predictable moments and quirkier flourishes are balanced out by its strong sense of place and cultural specificity. The vivid South London setting adds a lot of character to it, with cinematographer Olan Collardy capturing the vibrancy of the area through his bright, stylized work on the film, including the use of fish eye lenses and off-kilter framing choices that make use of negative space. The film’s bright and colourful pop aesthetic is one of the most appealing aspects of it. The quick editing keeps the story moving at a snappy pace (including some heightened reality flashbacks), as does the eclectic soundtrack.

The short running time does give the film a bit of a flash-in-the-pan feel, but this is part of the point; Rye Lane is meant to capture the fleeting feeling of meeting someone new and spending the day with them, with the potential for it to blossom into something more. It’s a confident debut from Allen-Miller that builds with a few pitfalls to a satisfying conclusion, and serves as a fine new addition to the romantic comedy genre.

Rye Lane will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ in Canada as of March 31st.

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