Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson stand talking at a street corner in South London in the film Rye Lane. Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

Film Review: Rye Lane

Film Reviews

Rye Lane
Director: Raine Allen-Miller

Searchlight Pictures
Streaming: 03.31

The modern romantic-comedy genre has mostly faded behind the paywalls of various streaming services as a result of their low budgets and saccharine plots that are best enjoyed on Saturday afternoons with a hot cup of tea and a warm blanket. That doesn’t mean that quality rom-coms aren’t still being released, and Raine Allen-Miller’s directorial debut, Rye Lane, is a gem among the straight-to-streaming romantic duds.

 In the heart of South London, Yas (Vivian Oparah) finds Dom (David Jonsson) lamenting his recent breakup with his girlfriend in a gender-neutral bathroom stall of the art exhibit they’re both attending. Yas, also recently single, consoles Dom, and the two stroll through South London talking through their breakups and helping one another get over their exes: Yas’ extroverted nature helps to confront Dom’s girlfriend, who cheated on him with his childhood friend, and Dom agrees to help Yas get back her A Tribe Called Quest vinyl that she neglected when she walked out on her ex’s pretentious ass.

 Rom-com aficionados will certainly see where the story goes from there, as well as the obvious pitfalls the characters will face within the tight, 82-minute runtime. They’ll also see the obvious inspirations—specifically Richard Linklater’s romantic, walk-and-talk masterpieces, the Before Trilogy—as Dom and Yas take the audience through the cultured and vibrant sites of South London. The production design of all the shops and homes are exquisitely unique, and the fish-eye lens that cinematographer Olan Collardy uses lets the audience feel like they’re also gallivanting through the city. It reminded me of Steve McQueen’s excellent Small Axe mini-series that takes place in South London (McQueen gets a small, loving shout out here) and how those stories also felt very authentic due to the setting.

 Oparah and Jonsson make for a great couple. Oparah’s eccentric clothing style and outgoing personality complement Jonsson’s easygoing and introverted nature as they are forced into various scenarios written by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia. Each scenario is slightly more ridiculous than the last, from Dom nervously showcasing his lovelorn music tastes at a party of people he doesn’t know to the duo performing the Salt-N-Pepa classic “Shoop” at karaoke. Most impressively, the duo exude a genuine connection as they talk about what went wrong in their past relationships, showcased through clever recollections such as performances in a stage play, and what they want for their futures.

Rye Lane isn’t trying to change up the formula of the rom-com or bring it back from its newfound home on streaming services: Everything you expect to happen between the two leads happens; all the emotions you’re conditioned to feel from these movies are felt. With her debut feature, Allen-Miller is simply showcasing her filmmaking strengths, and it’s a strong showing overall. –Eric Ray Christensen  

Read more reviews of rom-coms: 
Film Review: Somebody I Used To Know
Film Review: Your Place Or Mine