Debuting on Disney + in Canada this weekend, from Fox Searchlight, is the TIFF Next Wave selection and South London-based Rom-Com, Rye Lane. This new version of the classic “walk and talk” style film comes from first-time Feature Film director Raine Allen-Miller and a script written by experienced television comedy writers Nathan Byron and Tom Melia. Shot on location in South London’s Brixton and Peckham neighborhoods, including the real-life Rye Lane, the location brings a needed air of authenticity to the proceedings that help the film succeed where others have failed.
Dom (David Jonsson) recently broke up with his girlfriend after discovering she was sleeping with his best friend. He’s commiserating in a unisex bathroom stall at an art show thrown for his friend Nathan (Simon Manyonda) after being invited out by Cass (Poppy Allen-Quarmby). It’s in this situation that Yas (Vivian Oparah) enters his life, a mutual friend of Cass. Yas may appear to be the image of spontaneity and whimsy, but underneath she relates more to Dom’s situation than she initially lets on.
The pair become unlikely friends as they walk through the South London streets where Dom is headed toward a meeting with his ex-girlfriend Gia (Karene Peter) and former best friend Eric (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni). But Yas decides to crash the party to support Dom and act as his new love interest to make his ex realize what she has lost with her still an ongoing affair. Dom and Yas continue through the rest of the day and night with each other, with karaoke and home invasion on the menu, learning more about each other’s lives and starting to fall for each other in the end.
There’s really nothing new to the formula that we’ve seen before, the classic fall in love in one day trope has been used many times before. But what Rye Lane does very well is set the film firmly in South London and then manifests its location and surroundings as a supporting character very well. The script is well-written and while there may be some flights of fancy incorporated, the excellent use of the setting keeps everything grounded and nothing feels unrealistic at any point. The direction of Allen-Miller also allows Jonsoon and Oparah to fully occupy the screen and spread out within the context of the film enough that their chemistry really shines through.
Ultimately a film of this nature falls on the shoulders of its 2 leads, who are on camera either together or separately for over 90% of the film’s runtime, and relative newcomers Jonsson and Oparah are more than up to the task. The chemistry is palpable between the 2 from the very first scene together. Johnson imbues Dom with the nebbish energy of someone who feels pain and is not assertive enough to fully relay this, a perfect foil for Oparah’s Yas who projects outward confidence and energy to disguise her own hurt after a painful rejection. The energy given out is exactly what the other lacks and needs to heal from their own pain, each one helping the other by just being with each other and not even knowing it. By the end, the pair are being referred to as “annoyingly perfect for each other”, which actually could be said about the casting as well.
I’m not sure I can even tell you why, but rom-coms always seem to sound better with British accents, and Rye Lane is not an exception. Smartly written with some expertly staged sequences, the reunion dinner is especially a hoot. Director Allen-Miller is smart enough to let the dialogue speak for itself and not overburden it with unnecessary staging or set design, allowing Rye Lane to be itself, smartly searching out locations in Peckham and Brixton that can speak for themselves to add more layers and texture. The end result is a small film that feels much bigger and is much more effective than the sum of its parts.
- Release Date: 3/31/2023