I hate rom-coms, but I've discovered an exception - Gaby Soutar

I’ve always thought I was allergic to rom-coms.
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: (L-R) David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah attending the "Rye Lane" UK Premiere on March 08, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: (L-R) David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah attending the "Rye Lane" UK Premiere on March 08, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: (L-R) David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah attending the "Rye Lane" UK Premiere on March 08, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)

Then I accidentally went to a matinee of the new release, Rye Lane.

I didn’t really know what I was going to see, just that I had a swiftly expiring gift voucher to use and it was on at the right time.

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It was either this or something Marvel-y and that’s a hard no. I’m up to my eyeballs with Ant-Man. Bring on a liberal sprinkling of Borax.

The screening was at one of those fancy Everyman cinemas, with emerald green velvety seats, cushions and footrests.

As I had one of their sofas-a-deux all to myself, I spread out, like a loose-limbed Weimaraner on a forbidden piece of furniture.

However, it wasn’t only the plush surroundings, the fact that I had a day off work or the glass of wine that warmed my mummified heart.

The film, which is the directorial debut from Raine Allen-Miller and is set in South London, is charming – gentle, funny, but not cheesy.

The characters are very likeable, so you root for them. There is karaoke and a bit of Terence Trent D’Arby.

It was also the perfect length, at 82 minutes, so I didn’t need to take my camping stove and sleeping bag (I will never get back the 189 minutes that I spent watching Babylon).

At the denouement, if my other half had been there, we might have even held hands. Only joking. I wouldn’t take it that far. We’ve been together for 21 years, for goodness sake.

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Anyway, this is the first time in years that I’ve enjoyed a rom-com.

I gave up on them way back in the Nineties, post Harry Met Sally, Moonstruck, Pretty in Pink and the other acceptable classics.

The genre was dead to me from the early Noughties onset of Bridget Jones’s Diary or Love, Actually, and their assortments of bashful toffs. I can’t thole adorable floppy-haired characters and more obstacles than a Crufts course before the couple inevitably get together.

Incidentally, Rye Lane features an excellent cameo from Colin Firth, which involves him serving burritos from a street food stall called Love Guac’tually.

Years ago, I had a boyfriend who was a fan of that whole kissy-wissy ilk. At the time, I made him deviate from his usual choices to watch the newly-released The Sixth Sense. Later that night, I jumped out on him from a cupboard as a joke. I don’t think his frazzled nerves were ever quite the same again. He saw dead people from that day on.

I suppose our relationship was doomed. I could never have joined him in his love of the genre.

For many years – well, ever since I watched Nightmare on Elm Street at the age of about 12 – I’ve looked for the sort of film that will guarantee me an adrenaline spike.

It can be horror, sci-fi or thriller, as long as there’s plenty of melodrama.

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I’m not interested in feel-good films. It’s like I’ve not even been to the cinema unless my nerves are jangling and palms clammy.

That’s an addictive sensation. I don’t do parkour – well, only in the flat, from fridge to counter-top, then back to fridge – and I have a sedentary job, so I need to get my kicks in a controlled environment.

Also, I enjoy the post-stressful-film sensation of knowing that none of it was real.

Once the credits roll, you can walk out into the daylight and confirm that we are still pre-Apocalypse. For now, anyway.

The world may be pants, but the walking dead are unlikely to ever exist. Nothing will happen if you look in the mirror and say ‘candyman’ three times, though it’s best not to try it just in case.

In contrast to all that scary stuff, Rye Lane is a gentle movie with a few swears and sexual references, but none of that violence and peril. It’s completely gore free.

Perhaps that’s why, after my upmarket cinema visit, while I drifted down the escalators, I was still beaming.

I looked at other people, with their shopping bags, and had a sense of bonhomie. I did not feel irritated by the slow strollers or loud talkers.

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It seems it can be very therapeutic to see something so uplifting.

This viewing session was thrown into especially stark relief as I was still in recovery from watching a more harrowing film, earlier in the week. That was the horror, Pearl, where Mia Goth brilliantly plays a character that’s like a cross between Kathy Bates and Judy Garland.

I held my breath through half of that film, squinted my eyes at the gnarliest bits and had a flurry of palpitations whenever she reached for her pitchfork.

It was excellent and absolutely my usual thing.

However, though I had my “it’s not real” moment, I did wonder why I felt edgy on the walk home.

Usually, when I do get back to the gaff, there will often be even more screen time, with an episode of, say, end-of-the-world zombie programme, The Last of Us, while we await the next series of Squid Game.

Sometimes, I can’t sleep. I suppose watching these things is like having a cup of coffee after 6pm. My poor little walnut brain is overstimulated.

Thus, if you’re a cinema thrill seeker who needs a break, I prescribe rom-coms as a possible antidote.

Start with Rye Lane, but maybe skip Love, Actually.



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