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Rye Lane Sundance Review: A Vibrant and Refreshing Romantic Comedy

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British writer Nathan Byron’s sitcom Bloods received great acclaim in its native Britain, so his feature Rye Lane, co-written with Tom Melia and directed by Raine Allen-Miller, was a highly anticipated premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. A lighthearted and funny, if rather traditional rom-com, Rye Lane has the potential to break out big when audiences get the chance to fall in love with it later this spring on Hulu.

The film follows two people who, each suffering from a brutal breakup, bond over a day together when they decide to get back at their exes. It’s a very simple romantic comedy set-up, the likes of which we have seen dozens of variations before, but this is the type of movie where viewers will find warmth in its familiarity.

It’s refreshing to see a romantic comedy as buoyant as this that cares less about making a statement on the flaws of modern dating than it does about telling a legitimately great story. Even though the film hits some predictable beats — and never strays too far outside of the comfort zone — it’s enjoyable thanks to the quick wit of Byron and Melia.

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A still from Rye Lane by Raine Allen-Miller, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

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The humor in Rye Lane is a nice mix of the overt and the subtle. While there is some basic situational comedy that arises out of the premise — including a very entertaining, albeit traditional scene in which our heroes are awkwardly stuck in the home of one of their exes when he returns early — there are also plenty of lightweight, giggle-inducing moments that make the relationship feel more lived-in.

All of the characters are pretty archetypal, but it’s hard not to get invested in this vibrant love story. There’s no easier way to melt an audience’s heart than to provide them with two characters who feel like they are made for each other, and Byron and Melia do an excellent job of having these characters complement each other.

Much of the film’s success hinges on the chemistry between its two stars, and David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah are electric together. Jonsson, particularly, is absolute perfection in his role, channeling the awkward but charming nerdiness necessary to make the audience (and the character) fall head-over-heels for him.

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A still from Rye Lane by Raine Allen-Miller, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance InstituteAllen-Miller’s style also stands out with a cinematic grammar that is impressive for a feature debut. The movie is vibrant and full of color — both visually and sonically — with kinetic cinematography and a soundtrack full of absolute vibes that lend the film much of its bounciness.

Rye Lane doesn’t do much that is particularly innovative or groundbreaking with the romantic comedy formula, but it’s absolutely adorable nonetheless. Allen-Miller is arguably one of the most exciting new voices to debut at this year’s Sundance, and it will be exciting to see how she continues to grow over her career.

Rye Lane is playing at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 19-29 in-person in Park City, UT and January 24-29 online.

Rating: 8/10

8 Out of 10

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Written by Sean Boelman

Film Critic and member of the CACF.