Rye Lane has all the makings of a classic romance about brief encounters. Yas and Dom walk the streets of Peckham and Brixton, like two lovers wandering Vienna in Before Sunrise. They talk as openly as When Harry met Sally. They even have their own iconic Karaoke scene, up there with the likes of Lost in Translation. Some could say that Rye Lane is following in the footsteps of rom-com royalty.
But this isn’t fair to director Raine Allen-Miller, whose sparky feature debut will be marked as one of the greats in the genre one day. Not just compared with them.
Rye Lane opens with a chance encounter in the bathroom of a gallery show neither Yas and Dom (played by Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson) want to be at. It may not be the stuff of romance but that first meeting will take them on a day of discovery and connection as they try to mend their broken hearts.
“Rye Lane’s funny bone may be for the gutters, but it is insanely witty. “
Having cut her directorial teeth on music videos, Allen-Miller is a pro at making the camera sing. Her shots are original, always going for the angle least expected of her. We get low-shots, Dutch angles and scenes that are barely in the frame. You can tell Allen-Miller has often had to grab the audience’s attention in two minutes or less. Luckily, she keeps us with her for 80 minutes after that.
It’s cliché at this point to say the city is a character in its own right. But it’s hard not to when south London comes alive in Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia’s script. The borough talks back and not a single corner of the screen is wasted. At times it is like the people of Peckham and Brixton have wandered onto the set, adding another layer of vibrancy.
With the use of fisheye lenses, the city feels expansive and filled with opportunity. On every corner, there is someone to see and/or compliment. Peckham and Brixton’s vivacity is highlighted by Cynthia Lawrence-John’s eye-catching costume design and Anne Rhode’s theatrical production design.
Back to Bryon and Melia, their script boasts a surprising level of media literacy, often missing in Netflix’s recent rom-com attempts. There are no cringe TikTok dances or misused pieces of internet slang in sight. Yet the pair still firmly plant their story in the present day with a clear understanding of Gen Z humour. Recognising young people’s tendency towards d**k jokes and toilet humour.
“Rye lane may not be the most realistic, but at least it lets you believe for a little while.”
But don’t be confused, Rye Lane’s funny bone may be for the gutters, but it is insanely witty. Your risk of whiplash may increase upon buying a ticket with the speed at which jokes land.
At the helm of all of this are Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson. Their dynamic is central to the story’s success and they do not disappoint. All romantic interests should hereby attend the Oparah and Jonsson school of easy chemistry.
It’s refreshing that they seem to genuinely like each other. This defies Hollywood’s obsession with the “enemies to lovers” trope which is steeped in unhealthy relationship standards. Rye Lane may not be the most realistic, but at least it lets you believe for a little while.
Rye Lane is utterly unique and completely electric. If it is not the best film of the year, it’s certainly one of the best romances of the decade.
As shown as part of the Glasgow Film Festivals programme. Rye Lane is in cinemas from March 17 and Disney+ two weeks later on March 31.
Featured Image Credit: Glasgow Film Festival
Film and Tv Editor at Brig Newspaper. Currently studying Journalism and English at the University of Stirling
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