The Spool / Movies
Rye Lane earns itself a spot in the rom-com canon
Hulu’s newest rom-com argues that the genre is far from dead with one of the sweetest stories we’ve seen.
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Hulu’s newest rom-com argues that the genre is far from dead with one of the sweetest stories we’ve seen.

There’s been no shortage of pieces lately decrying the state of the romcom—is it on life support? Dead? In danger? If you’ve been lamenting the dearth of gems like You’ve Got Mail and Bridget Jones’s Diary, then Hulu has good news for you with its release of director Raine Allen-Miller’s feature debut: Rye Lane. It’s a quick and quippy romp through London’s Peckham neighborhood as two heartbroken twentysomethings bond over breakups and, far more deliciously, how to get back at their rotten exes. It’s a return to form that doesn’t feel stuck in the past. Rather, it’s a joyful reminder of why everyone loves a rom-com to begin with. 

We meet Dom (David Jonsson) the same way Yas (Vivian Oparah) does: crying on the toilet. The two soon realize they share not only mutual friends but recent breakups. Yas strolls with Dom as he makes his way to lunch with his cheating ex and best friend. Now, of course, they’re a happy couple. But brash Yas refuses to let Dom suffer through it alone. Soon the two are on an odyssey through a less seen (at least by American audiences) side of London. 

Dom and Yas’s meet-cute is an ugly intimacy (bathrooms, pissing, crying). Similarly, their stroll through the neighborhood isn’t aiming for aspirational, Instagram chic. Instead, it feels incredibly real and lived in, matching the naturalness of their connection to one another. The two share that kind of easy familiarity that sometimes only feels possible when you’re 25, inconsolable, and lonely. 

Rye Lane (Hulu)
David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah get swept up in each other and the music. (Searchlight Pictures)

It’s matched with Allen-Miller’s slick direction, which infuses every scene with the freshness it needs in 2023. The duo pop among bold color palettes. The film recreates their trips down memory lane with hilarious accuracy. We often see them literally walking into the background of a memory, providing commentary on their past selves. But smartly, style never takes precedence over substance. It only ever serves to prop up their relationship for the audience, not overshadow it. 

While Rye Lane’s script takes Dom and Yas’s exes to the villainous extreme, it also finds ways to humanize the experience, particularly with Dom’s best mate Eric. Instead of playing up the drama of his betrayal, it cuts the tension with Eric’s doofy himbo demeanor. In one of the film’s most hysterical moments, we get a brief flashback to Eric and Dom’s childhood friendship. Instead of riding bikes or playing ball, they’re having a literal pissing contest in the boy’s room, giggling like maniacs. 

Rye Lane isn’t just worthy of a watch this weekend. It’s worthy of a place in the rom-com canon.

That Rye Lane understands both the humor and weird sweetness of such scenes is one of the things that makes it so unforgettable. Jonsson and Oparah’s performances are another. Jonsson brings Dom’s timidity and sensitivity to life without going so far as to turn him into Walter in Sleepless in Seattle. Meanwhile, Oparah is perfect at making Yas’s exuberance and boldness part of her charm without dominating everyone around her.  

In Rye Lane, Dom and Yas’s faults and strengths bundle together in a messy knot. If Dom’s sensitivity makes him a bit less adventurous, it also makes him earnest and honest. Just as Yas’s assertiveness can act as a mask, it also pushes her to put herself out there. Nothing is ever all one thing or another. 

Ultimately, Rye Lane isn’t just worthy of a watch this weekend. It’s worthy of a place in the rom-com canon. With any luck, it’ll inspire a new hunger for the genre, hoping to see something just as sweet and charming.

Rye Lane charms its way onto Hulu March 31.

Rye Lane Trailer:

 

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