Rye Lane


Reviewed by: Jeremy Mathews

Rye Lane
"Rye Lane has a sustained energy that makes it a joyous experience to watch." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Rye Lane has a sustained energy that makes it a joyous experience to watch. A madcap romantic comedy that’s as in love with its characters as they are with each other, it mostly takes place during one aimless day, as a ridiculously likable couple get to know each other in their favorite part of London.

Director Raine Allen Miller has made the kind of unapologetically fun romance that we don’t get enough of. A bit of Before Sunset by way of Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle, it tells the story of Dom and Yas, played by David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah with the sort of electric chemistry that every romantic comedy director dreams of sparking.

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The movie takes place in and around south London, including, of course, on Rye Lane, with its eclectic mix of unique shops and restaurants. (The street doesn’t have any particular narrative significance beyond the characters walking down it.) At the movie’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, it was a little surprising to learn that the original screenplay by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia placed the action in Camden, because it really feels like a love letter to this neighbourhood. Restaurants, shops and food stalls get name-dropped if not visited, and there’s a real sense that this is an area the characters know and love.

If anything, Miller can be too enamored with her locations, capturing awesome buildings and murals so strikingly with her wide-angle lens the characters feel secondary in the composition. More often, however, she’s giving us delightful background gags involving the flamboyant extras who populate the neighbourhood.

The story begins a night early, among the toilet cubicles, as Dom sobs uncontrollably, publicly embarrassing himself with no privacy but the stall door. Yas checks on his wellbeing, and later recognises him at an art gallery show due to his pink Chucks, which she eyed under the door. He doesn’t understand where she knows him from, but they hit up a rapport anyway as they look at a friend’s orally fixated photography.

Miller gets to flex her stylistic chops in some of the scenes, such as the flashbacks to Dom and Yas describing how their relationships ended. Dom’s, set in a movie theater, finds the characters transported from the park they’re walking through to the cinema halls and seats. Yas’s break-up story is also theatrical, as she and Dom watch her epic version of events as if from a theater balcony, with dark lighting on a minimalist stage. She also fluidly integrates cutaway gags.

But she proves most adept at building on comedic set pieces, including a surprise visit to a neighbourhood barbecue and an ill-advised breaking and entering. She hits her madcap best early on, when Yas crashes Dom’s lunch with his ex and best friend, who are now an item, to save him from the awkward emotional pain.

Not all the gags in Rye Lane work, but more do than don’t, and Miller bounces us nimbly from one set piece to the next, so it never gets boring. And it helps that we so want to see these characters end up together, that it’s a delight to go along for the ride.

Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2023
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Two twenty-somethings reeling from bad break-ups deal with their nightmare exes and connect over the course of an eventful day in south London.
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Director: Raine Allen-Miller

Writer: Nathan Bryon, Tom Melia

Starring: David Jonsson, Vivian Oparah

Year: 2023

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: UK

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