Directed by: Raine Allen-Miller
Premise: Two recently single people (David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah) connect in a chance encounter and spend an evening walking and talking.
What Works: There is a subgenre of romance in which two people meet and connect over one crazy evening as seen in It Happened One Night and Before Sunrise. Rye Lane is an excellent example of that subgenre. Like most love stories, the movie succeeds largely due to its casting. David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah make a likeable couple. He is softspoken and responsible and cautious to a fault while she is a creative and impulsive. Although that’s a relationship we’ve seen before in romantic stories it is done well here. Jonsson and Oparah create vivid and interesting characters. Each of them is recently out of an intense relationship and in the course of the evening they have confrontations with the other’s ex and their new beau. Those exchanges are cringingly funny but also revealing. We get insight into why the relationship broke up which unveils the central characters’ other personal flaws and eccentrics. What emerges over the course of the film is a sensitive and complex portrait of these characters and the difference between who they are and who they imagine themselves to be. Rye Lane is also very funny. The banter between Jonsson and Oparah’s characters is smart and witty and the film has a light and irreverent tone. Rye Lane is made with energy and style. The filmmakers choose unusual angles and lenses that give Rye Lane a distinct look. It is set in contemporary London and presents a diverse image of the city that we’ve rarely seen in cinema. The spaces in which the story is set have vibrant color and detail.
What Doesn’t: Rye Lane adheres to a romantic comedy template and it includes some of the cliches of the genre. Because the characters are so engaging and the world they inhabit is so vivid, the filmmakers mostly get away with the adherence to convention. However, the storytelling mechanics become visible in the final stretch. As is often the case in these sorts of romances, the lovers come to a crisis and that causes them to break up and eventually resolve their differences. The break up feels forced. The argument that incites the conflict is exaggerated and it sets the film on a predictable path. The ending is a little too neat and conclusive. The characters revolve their differences without actually doing anything. Because Jonsson and Oparah’s characters are so likable, seeing them get back together is a satisfying enough ending but the conclusion falls back on convention where other aspects of the film were unique.
Disc extras: Available on Hulu.
Bottom Line: Rye Lane is a satisfying love story elevated by its performances and cinematic style. The core of this movie is familiar but the story is executed with style and populated with endearing and interesting characters.
Episode: #952 (June 11, 2023)