By MARK KENNEDY, Associated Press
Yas and Dom meet-cute in the best possible way in the new rom-com “Rye Lane.”
They’re paired up at a karaoke bar by chance and simply slay, leaving the crowd demanding more and chanting their names. The new couple recognize “an immediate, deep animal attraction.”
No, not really.
That’s just the made-up story Yas tells Dom’s cheating ex-girlfriend to make her jealous and signal he’s moved on. It works: Even the ex’s new lover calls it “hands-down the greatest hook-up story of all time.”
How these two 20-somethings actually hook up is the subject of this sweet, down-to-earth, funny and thoughtful rom-com that shows two strangers moving though London and visibly falling in love over a matter of hours.
David Jonsson is Dom, the fresh agony of being dumped and cheated on after six years visible on his broken shoulders. Vivian Oparah is Yas, also newly single, but seemingly stronger. He’s a little mousy, an accountant; she’s vivacious, a fledgling fashion designer.
“Apparently there are two kinds of people in this world,” she says. “The ones that wave at boats and the ones who hate joy.” She waves at boats.
Director Raine Allen-Miller makes a stunning full-length debut, keeping the action deeply grounded in South London but also capturing pure flights of fancy, like when a stranger in a cowboy outfit suddenly screams out “Boring!” when Dom reveals he’s an accountant or when Yas recreates a breaking point in her old relationship on a fictional theater stage with a hundred Doms in the audience.
Screenwriters Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia perfectly capture modern slang, like when Yas describes her ex: “He was trying to dilute my squash. And I was like, ‘Not today, Satan’” or when she calls the boyfriend of Dom’s ex a “jobless, useless bin fire.”
The movie has a delicious mix of references that viewers can enjoy from both sides of the Atlantic, from “The Wire” and A Tribe Called Quest to sausage rolls and the Crufts dog show. A scene that uses a Terence Trent D’Arby song will have folks laughing, as one with Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop.”
“I don’t know how this day is going to end, but as weird as it’s been, it’s also been one of the greatest days ever,” says Dom.
And in a wonderful nod to another English rom-com — “Love Actually” — our would-be couple grab lunch at a Mexican food stall called Love Guac’tually and are served by one of that OG film’s stars, Colin Firth.
The last third of the film sweeps along like an adrenaline high, with romantic moped rides, minor breaking-and-entering, some brutal words and laughter.
How did Dom and Yas really meet? The opening sequence shows an overhead shot of unisex bathroom stalls and finally rests on one man sobbing as he revisits Instagram photos of him and his ex. It’s Dom, amid the peeing and tears.
“Everything all right in there?” Yas asks. “Yep, fine,” he replies, lying.
Some 80 minutes later, he will be. So will you.
“Rye Lane,” a Searchlight Pictures release, is rated R for “language, some sexual content and nudity.” Running time: 79 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.