Immediately from its frantic opening scene, it’s clear that Rye Lane is a rom-com with staying power, vibrant beat and unparalleled energy.
Recently released on Hulu after its premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, Rye Lane begins when two strangers meet at a mutual friend’s art exhibit in South London. An awkward bathroom meet cute between Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah) eventually becomes the beginning of a blossoming romance. Throughout a life-changing day, both characters quickly realize that the other is dealing with a bad break-up. They walk around the city, getting to know each other and questioning whether they can fall in love once again. Over the course of the film’s tight 82-minute runtime, it’s nearly impossible not to fall for the story itself — in all its hilarious and deeply heartfelt moments.
While the story structure itself is nothing special, the execution here is nearly flawless, effectively reviving the rom-com formula for a new generation of audiences. Watching Dom and Yas connect over a fateful day reckons back to Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy, as we watch meaningful conversations unfold about everything from past regrets to the type of people who wave at people on boats — the best kind.
What makes Rye Lane all the more impressive is when you realize that this is Raine Allen Miller’s directorial debut. The colorful style infused throughout every frame is executed with the confidence of a seasoned filmmaker. A mixture of multiple types of shots, everything from tight close-ups clearly inspired by Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing to extreme wides that follow Dom and Yas and their environment, create a vivid, ever-changing cinematic language.
While the third act does feel slightly cut short, the shorter runtime otherwise works to the film’s advantage. Sometimes less is more and each scene here feels equally purposeful and exciting. This is largely due to Miller’s choice to constantly change up the setting, creating new situations that lead to character growth, conflict and discovery.
Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia’s script is extremely sharp, offering countless belly-laugh moments. As Dom and Yas get into various antics to help each other get back at their exes, like getting back Yas’ copy of The Low End Theory, imagined sequences are hysterically brought to life. In one scene, Yas crashes Dom’s lunch with his ex and starts describing elaborate lies about the amazing life Dom has led since his break-up — a true example of perfect comedic timing. It’s from this scene onward, which launches us right into the second act at full speed, that Rye Lane never lets up.
And that brings us to the real heart of it all: the chemistry between Dom and Yas that can be described as nothing less than electric and profound. Both Jonsson and Oparah perfectly bring to life each of their individual character traits and quirks while also conveying how two people from opposing mindsets can be naturally drawn together.
Dom is initially keen on letting people walk all over him and not standing up for his truth in contrast to Yas’ much more outspoken and upfront nature. But the dynamic between these two is constantly changing. As we learn more about the things both Dom and Yas are afraid to admit, conflict is built-up that adds even more stakes. Love is a complicated thing and in Rye Lane, it’s beautifully understood that what makes two people tick can’t simply be explained in words. Even in situations when Dom and Yas go their own ways for a short while, they can’t help but find themselves meeting up again. Even in the uncertainty of both of their futures and where life is taking them, the consolation they find in being afraid of change together brings about formative life experiences.
It’s really as simple as this: Rye Lane is fucking lovely, and an immediate new comfort classic. While it absolutely deserved a theatrical release, hopefully word-of-mouth helps it find an audience on Hulu. Let’s not allow this gem to get lost in the endless noise of streaming content.
Matt Minton is a Junior Writing for Film, TV & Emerging Media major who enjoys curling up on the couch and watching a good rom-com. They can be reached at [email protected].