The rom-com, as we once knew it, died years ago. Now every version seems to embrace the meta-storytelling of women who know they’re in a rom-com. In many other cases, they’re relegated to romance novels, which have delightfully found a resurgence in recent years. Yet while we wait for the IP-inspired rom-com revolution, viewers disappeared into the desert. However, one of the most enjoyable escapades in years lands on Hulu this weekend. Rye Lane, inspired by the London neighborhood, crackles with chemistry and sharp wit. It’s a breakout for David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah, who proves there’s still hope for the sub-genre yet.
Directed by Riane Allen-Miller, Rye Lane follows two young adults as they walk throughout South London. The recently single Dom (Jonsson) attends an art show for a friend. While there, he meets Yas (Oparah), a woman who recently left her boyfriend. Yas joins Dom as he travels to meet up with his ex-girlfriend and her new beau. Along the way, Yas and Dom discuss life, love, and what they want for their futures.
Allen-Miller paces the film to perfection and livens up the Before Sunrise and (first half) of Something Wild structure. As the characters search for self-discovery, the humor pushes the limits and gets very funny. Allen-Miller lets her actors play up the humor, prioritizing their reactions coming in-camera instead of forcing insert shots. This helps build the chemistry between the actors on-camera and elicits genuine laughs from the audience.
The twists and turns of the narrative help Rye Lane shine. Screenwriters Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia build the world on a logical path. Yet what helps Rye Lane stand out as it immerses us in unique neighborhoods and cultures. Letting the characters come from immigrant families helps us view emerging cultures within London without devolving into negative stereotypes. Instead, these moments infuse life and positivity into a story where two characters struggle with mental health.
Both Jonsson and Oparah bring a lot of energy and style to Rye Lane. Jonsson adds nerdy vibes to his character but also shows charm and wit. While we see him play into the introverted aspects of his role, his grin gets bigger and bigger with each moment of happiness. Most of the character growth in Rye Lane comes from Jonsson, and he sells this transition. Meanwhile, Oparah gets to quip and dance her way through the film. Her role could border on manic pixie dream girl, yet she’s truly too self-confident to play into “quirky’ stereotypes. Instead, she turns Yas into someone with deep insecurity. It’s a dynamic performance.
With a short runtime that helps Rye Lane avoid overstaying its welcome. The cinematography uses a fish-eye lens that will alienate some viewers, but the screenplay more than makes up for the odd visuals. Jonsson and Oparah seem destined for stardom, and what a flick to set them on the path.