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‘Rye Lane’ review: this British rom-com provides laughs and flair to make it its own enjoyable experience

David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah provide to be a winning pair in this stylish, Peckham set romance.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This film was originally reviewed for the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

Breakups are tough. You have to figure out have to get each other’s stuff back and the social media awkwardness of seeing your ex possibly move on with somebody else. Things have gotten a little heavy for Dom (David Jonsson). The stylish opening aerial shot of Rye Lane progresses through the unisex bathroom stalls of a South London art gallery. Dom is crying his eyes out, mourning the loss of his six-year girlfriend, Gia (Karene Peter). To make matters worse, she is seeing his best friend, Eric (Benjamin Sarprong-Broni).

It’s not that Dom is particularly ok with this – his character is very adverse to confrontation. At that moment of loud sobbing, he meets Yas (Vivian Oparah), somebody going through her own breakup. However, it seems she’s taking it as well as anybody would expect. Director Raine Allen-Miller’s first feature not only allows its characters to infuse their likeability and emotion when they are the focus, but there are also several things happening either throughout or to the side that are hilarious. Dom’s friend Nathan (Simon Manyonda) has these art exhibits with pictures of people’s teeth and other body parts. When Dom and Yas are walking throughout Peckham, there are little interactions with random street dancers and a little kid riding a scooter yelling.

It’s these little things that give life to the story that’s being told. Writers Nathan Brion and Tom Melia combine many elements that don’t feel forced or underdeveloped. Dom’s propensity to not cause trouble comes against Yas’s fun, bold and open nature. This comes to a head when Gia and Eric invite Dom to dinner to discuss things. You can imagine this is pretty awkward and puzzling as to why anybody would agree to this. When it looks like this is too much for Dom, here comes Yas to save the day – pretending they are newly dating. This dinner scene provides a lot of humor and builds a basis for what grows between them the next day.

Some of Rye Lane focuses on Dom and Yas learning more about each other as they walk through the streets of Peckham. With this, Allen-Miller utilizes a lot of visual distinction with different colors and styles of how both characters recall their pasts to each other. Everything feels fresh, even if the characters may feel familiar to you. As they spend more time together, each personality rubs off on one other. With Yas’s exuberance, Dom is able to put his shyness to the side and partake in singing Salt-N-Pepa “Shoop” to a packed pair. Dom’s vulnerable side allows Yas to stop using her outgoingness as a wall to mask her hurt in her breakup.

Most of this works because of the acting of Jonsson and Oparah. They have a natural chemistry when they walk down Rye Lane Market trying different foods or in a fight because some of their pasts might be a little bit embellished. The audience will want to root for them because there is a good mix between heart-to-heart honesty and the typical rom-com hijinks they go through. It's also great to see two Black leads in a genre that can benefit from more diverse stories and subjects.

Maybe you have to lose something to get to a better situation in the place you’d least expect. It’s an old adage of romantic films. Love can happen in months or years (or, in this case, a day). Thankfully, Rye Lane shows there are more places to visit.

Rye Lane is streaming on Hulu beginning March 31.