Rye Lane (2023) Review

Quick Synopsis: Following two youngsters reeling from bad breakups who connect over a particularly eventful day in South London.

I like a good rom-com, mainly because they contain two of my favourite things: likeable characters, and good dialogue. My issue is, that a lot of them aren’t good, they’re too trope-ey and dull to really be memorable. It feels like the genre is overpopulated by films displaying a complete lack of effort, as if the genre is an excuse to be lazy because “well it’s just a rom-com, it doesn’t need to be too new”. It’s why it’s such a shock to find something genuinely fresh and exciting like Rye Lane is. Raine Allen-Miller could potentially be one of the great directors of the future. I mean, THIS is her debut. She displays more creativity with her shots here than 90% of directors would. From the use of different lenses, to Peep Show style POV shots, there’s a lot of creativity in Rye Lane which means that as a filmmaker it’s a fascinating watch. Her aptitude is backed up by the performances of Vivian Oparah (who you might know from the Doctor Who spin-off Class) and David Jonsson (who you might know from the HBO/BBC series Industry). There are other actors in this, but they mostly float in and out of the narrative, it is anchored around the characters of Yas and Dom. If Oparah and Jonsson miss a step then the film falls apart. That is also true of how the characters are written, you should actually want these characters to be together (the fact that the characters made each other worse when they were with each other was a big reason why I wasn’t a fan of Licorice Pizza, that and the whole HE’S FIFTEEN!). Yas and Dom are likeable characters, it’s easy to see a small bit of yourself in their awkwardness and faux confidence. It’s helped by the natural chemistry between Jonsson and Oparah. They perform together like they’ve worked together multiple times, bouncing off each other with ease.

Now onto the downside, the visual style may not be for everyone, personally, I loved it but I am aware it is an acquired taste. And whilst it hits most of the romcom tropes in a decent enough manner, the traditional “fall-out and argument in the final third” falls a little flat. They’re hard to do anyway because 90% of the time it’s just someone going “let me explain” and then not explaining. The argument needs to be big enough to make it believable that they might not end up together at the end of the film (à la Chasing Amy, spoilers for a 26-year-old film btw), but not so big that it would demean one of the characters if the relationship was restarted (“yes, he shot my family, but we only have 5 minutes left in the film so I think we need to get back together”). It’s a tricky tightrope to tiptoe down and Rye Lane doesn’t quite manage it. It feels too small, I was so into the relationship that I didn’t really buy that something like that would keep them apart. The “grand gesture to win them back” at the end felt relatively small too. So really my main problems with this film all revolve around the ending, and it’s not even necessarily bad, but it is slightly flat compared to how great the rest of the film is.

In summary, a very good film, but I’ll be very disappointed if this turns out to be the high point in the careers of everyone involved. This could end up being mentioned in a future review of one of my favourite films I see, in much the same way as my mention of how good McKenna Grace was in Gifted means I can now be like “hah, I told you she’d be amazing” now that everybody else is finally realising how damn good she is. If you get a chance, go see this, inventive romcoms deserve to be seen, plus, the mere existence of this film REALLY annoys racist dickheads, which is always fun.


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