Rye Lane (2023) – Reel Review

Director: Raine Allen-Miller | 1h 22mins | Comedy, Romance

A chance meeting at a mutual friend’s art exhibit leads Dom and Yas on an eventful night through South London, reflecting on their respective break-ups.

Raine Allen-Miller’s vibrant romantic comedy is a celebration of its surroundings. Done in the style of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, in which two people fall in love over a single night, Rye Lane swaps the serene streets of Vienna for the unique cultural collage of South London. It pops with personality and colour as its central romance blossoms around it – understanding that despite being an oversaturated genre, it’s about how much originality you’re willing to put into it. 

The two characters at the centre of this love story are Dom and Yas. Both characters are written as you’d expect from a rom-com, polar opposite in taste and style, but somehow their chemistry is instant. It’s a classic interpretation of ‘opposites attract’ that feels genuine because of the performances and the writing, but writers Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia understand that what really bonds the two characters is the effect they have on each other. 

Dom, a shy accountant who’s previous girlfriend cheated on him with his best friend, finally starts to embrace his independence thanks to the palpable energy of Yas which he deems “iconic”. And that iconism is what drives Yas closer to Dom, finally seeing herself as something outside of her previous breakup. It’s a wonderfully balanced relationship that subtly blossoms against the colourful backdrop Raine Allen-Miller is painting for us. 

Often when we see London on screen it’s shown as a dismal, paint by numbers, melancholic place that never captures the more specific parts of the city. But, Rye Lane offers us a near surreal imagining of South London. Every turn our characters take offers its audience a bizarre character to chuckle at or a new place to relish in. But, despite giving us so much to laugh at, Rye Lane is first and foremost a celebration – rejoicing in the diversity and individuality that the place has.

References to sitting in bed eating Greggs sausages rolls are arguably the most relatable part of this film for any Brit, but for a romance to capture so many real life moments it needs a cast that can handle those situations. Both David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah give a wholesome touch to Dom and Yas and despite both making waves in either high-concept television or grounded dramas, they seem to fall effortlessly into the playful nature of the film’s tone. But, more importantly, they understand that chemistry is key – something the film builds its foundations on. 

Too many times we’ve seen stuffy rom-coms become overbearing in their approach to romance, but Rye Lane’s focus on humour and chemistry is what allows the romance to sprout naturally. As Dom and Yas glide playfully through the streets of Brixton, seamlessly growing as a pair and bouncing off one another, it’s impossible not to root for their inevitable romance.

Arguably the film does follow a formulaic structure, but when there is this much originality it doesn’t really matter. Rye Lane is a fresh take on a genre that can often feel overplayed but thanks to a wonderful cast, fantastic humour and a genuine representation of its setting, it achieves a uniqueness that not many films have. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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