While similar to films like ‘Before Sunrise,’ this London love story finds a beauty in the details that is all its own.

If every one of the dwindling number of romantic comedies that came out were as sharply funny and inventive as director Raine Allen Miller’s feature debut Rye Lane, one could easily see the genre getting a resurgence. Written by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, it is a film that is just crackling with energy in each and every facet of its sweet story that allows you to get completely swept up in it. When this is all brought to life by the pitch-perfect duo of David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah, the experience becomes one that is sublime as we just get to spend time with two young people making their way through a vibrant world. Even when it falls into a bit of a common narrative contrivance to create some conflict, you are still able to go with it based on the endless charm that is just bursting free from every single frame.

This all begins with a character crying in a bathroom, who we first see via an extended overhead shot that offers glimpses of each individual world playing out in the confines of various stalls before settling on his. The character in question is Dom (Jonsson) and the reason for his sadness is that he has recently been broken up with. Making matters worse is that his ex had cheated on him with his best friend and the two now want to meet with him to smooth things over. In the midst of his melancholy, he is overheard by the aspiring costume designer Yas (Oparah) who asks him if he is okay but is only able to catch a glimpse of his shoes. When both exit to go out to an art gallery of photographed mouths, part of a recurring gag that proves to be rather cheeky, she recognizes his shoes and strikes up a conversation. The two then spend the rest of the day wandering through South London, drawing closer to each other as they open up about their lives just as they get up to various shenanigans.

This reaches a high point when Yas crashes Dom’s meeting with his ex and her new boyfriend. While every character is so great in bouncing off of each other in the chaos that unfolds, it is the comedic juggernaut that is Oparah who is the driving force behind all of it. She is just so outstanding as she upends the entire scene and makes it something totally new. Her timing and delivery are unmatched as she takes us through a story that, while ridiculous, becomes unexpectedly gratifying when it also playfully foreshadows much of what is to come.

Rye Lane David Jonsson Vivian Oparah
Image via Sundance

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The way that Miller constructs all of this is lovely to take in, as she never loses sight of the precise expressions of the characters while also packing in plenty of visual flair. This often takes the form of us being guided through memories, both real and curated, that play up the absurdity to joyous effect. Both Yas and Dom will observe themselves in these moments, ensuring they are detached enough to make jokes about what is playing out without taking away from the emotional impact. It is a delicate balancing act, but Rye Lane never has any trouble staying upright as the endlessly charismatic characters continue to stroll along.

Even beyond these sequences that step outside of time and space, just getting to observe their little corner of the world finds a real sense of love for the details. The various colors pop off the screen as the film takes us to markets, parks, and streets that most others would just fully gloss over. Often shot with a unique lens, it is grounded by a willingness to freely wander that becomes intertwined with a love for the underappreciated moments to be found in life. This is what sets the film apart as it feels less like a constructed story driven by plot and is instead more akin to the experience of actually going on a walk without a care in the world.

Even as there are still objectives that the duo have, just getting to take in the various settings and places with them is a real treat. Miller demonstrates a refreshing willingness to let the random occurrences of life play out and not lose them in the rush to merely get to the next scene. While there is one surprise cameo appearance that is good fun, the time it takes to immerse us in the lives of Yas and Dom is what captures the imagination. From the rich exteriors which mirror the interiors of the characters, it is simply beautiful to take in everyday moments that the film uses to mold the ordinary into something extraordinary. There are even a handful of occurrences which just are in a way that ensures each feel oddly delightful.

Rye Lane Vivian Oparah David Jonsson
Image via Sundance

From just some dude poking his head out of a window while shirtless to a child making the oddest shouting sound while riding a scooter or the recurring appearance of a spiffy-looking cowboy on the street, we catch these moments only in small increments though they prove to be precious. We will never know these people, but they are part of the rich texture of the world. Letting us linger with them, however briefly, provides the little in-between moments that make us feel as though we are also walking along with Yas and Dom. A scene where they spend some time at a house party builds this out further as side characters are made so precise that you can’t help feeling like you come to know each and every one of them.

Even as the two protagonists eventually face a schism that feels a bit more engineered and less natural than the moments that preceded it, the way it comes together in the end is wonderful. It is a truly magnificent work that ensures you fall in love with the characters, their lives, and their world with an ease that feels like you are just catching up with old friends.

Rating: A-

Rye Lane debuted at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and comes to Hulu on March 31.

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