January 30, 2023

Sundance 2023 Reviews: “Rye Lane,” “Passages” & “Run Rabbit Run”


RYE LANE (Searchlight/Disney – March 31):  Raine Allen Miller’s feature debut Rye Lane is a bubbly surprise, a quick-witted, fast-paced rom-com overflowing with charm.  The script by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia wastes no time launching its premise, as Yas (Vivian Oparah) hears Dom (David Jonsson) weeping in a unisex toilet stall at a gallery opening (the artist, a friend of Dom’s, specializes in photos of teeth), and heaves herself into his quiet life.  What follows is a riff on Before Sunrise, any number of Richard Curtis romances, and the meet-cute genre in general, as Dom and Yas emerge onto the streets of South London, getting to know each other as they alternately stroll and race through the picturesque sites and environs.  Rye Lane has its share of uproarious set-pieces, as when Yas crashes the lunch that Dom has unaccountably agreed to have with his ex and her new guy, who happened to be Dom’s best mate at the time, or when Dom accompanies Yas on her quest to reclaim a favorite record album from her own ex.  Some of the best scenes, though, are just about the couple sharing their origin stories and dreams, especially as Dom learns that Yas isn’t just a manic pixie dream girl, but someone with her own insecurities.  Miller and the writers find inventive ways to deliver exposition, and every scene as shot by Olan Collardy is a marvel of color and design, sparked by an exuberant mix of score and needle-drops.  Weighing in at a speedy 82 minutes, Rye Lane never outstays its welcome, and if its ending is a little too cute even for its heightened sense of romance, it’s redeemed by the buoyant chemistry between Oparah and Johnsson.

PASSAGES (MUBI):  Sometimes a viewer and filmmaker simply don’t vibe, and I have to admit that for me, the much-praised director Ira Sachs (Keep the Lights On, Forty Shades of Blue, Love Is Strange) is a figure associated more with respect than enjoyment.  As is often the case with his films, his latest Passages (co-written with Mauricio Zacharias) is a story of emotional chaos that stays very controlled.  Set in Paris, it’s about Tomas (Franz Rogowski), a German film director in a longtime relationship with graphic designer Martin (Ben Whishaw).  One night in a local bar after a day of shooting, when Martin has left for the night, Tomas starts dancing with schoolteacher Agathe (Adele Exarchopolous, from Blue is the Warmest Color), beginning a tryst that puts all of their lives into turmoil.  Sachs seems oddly uninterested in Tomas’s identity as a filmmaker, and concentrates instead on his cheerful narcissism, as he assumes everyone in his orbit will lean in to his wants and needs.  (He’s usually right.)  Passages has a fair amount of quite explicit sex, but little heat, as the characters squirm toward and away from each other, unable to tear themselves from Tomas no matter how mindful they are that he’s bad for them.  Sachs has had 8 films screen at Sundance, and he’s a festival’s dream, a director who tackles big emotional themes in a polished way, with choice art-house casts, and exquisite taste in furnishings and music.  Passages revolves around a filmmaker who lives his life with unconsidered abandon, but it feels like cinema made by someone who’s great at taking tests.

RUN RABBIT RUN (Netflix):  A middling horror story, with limited scares and surprise.  Divorced fertility doctor Sarah (Sarah Snook of Succession) finds her settled life disrupted as her daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre) begins to show signs of some kind of otherworldly disorder.  Her speech patterns change, she draws ominous pictures, and she develops obsessions with a creepy bunny-rabbit mask and with the grandmother (Greta Scacchi) she’s never met.  Sarah, for her part, experiences fragmentary flashbacks about her sister, who suffered a dire but unspecified fate.  In the way of protagonists in dim thrillers, Sarah decides to take Mia to the most threatening place possible, her childhood home.  Director Daina Reed, working from a script by Hannah Kent, turns up the sinister gloominess courtesy of photography by Bonnie Elliott, music by Mark Bradshaw and Marcus Whale, and sound design by Robert Mackenzie.  Snook, for her part, is fully committed to her increasingly tormented role.  There just isn’t much substance here, in psychological depth, memorable terror, or plot surprise.  It’s not hard to guess why Sarah and her daughter are being haunted, and the film’s abrupt ending seems to think, wrongly, that all it needs to do is confirm that we were right.  There’s not nearly enough hop in this rabbit.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."