A review of Rye Lane (2023).
Warning: Contains spoilers for Rye Lane.
In the mother of all nods to the rom-com genre, Rye Lane’s main characters stop to eat at a burrito stand called, “Love Guac’tually.” I won’t say any more or it would spoil the surprise of what happens next. This is director Raine Allen-Miller’s feature-length debut, and it’s a love letter to South London (in particular, the districts of Peckham and Brixton), while also paying homage to films like Before Sunrise without copying them. Its protagonists, Dom and Yaz (played by actors David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah) get to know each other over the course of one day, while wandering through art galleries, markets, playgrounds, and karaoke bars, with a little breaking-and-entering thrown in for good measure. Allen-Miller’s South London is saturated in bright colors. She (and cinematographer Olan Collardy) use wide and fisheye lenses and point-of-view shots to draw the audience in while conveying how the film’s main characters are feeling. Even though both Dom and Yaz are nursing broken hearts after recent breakups, the film’s writers, Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, along with Allen-Miller, create a really funny and joy-filled story. The movie’s main characters have great chemistry but they happen to meet at the wrong time (or the best time, depending on how you look at it). Both of their breakups are reenacted in the film with present-day Dom and Yaz watching from the sides like a stage play happening before their eyes. The lighting is beautiful and full of color and the special effects are honestly amazing. The movie can be fast-paced and a bit jarring at times, but once you acclimate to Allen-Miller’s style it becomes all the more charming, as do the film’s leads.
I recently read ScreenCraft’s “THE 9 ELEMENTS OF ALL GREAT ROM-COMS” and here’s why I think Rye Lane is indeed a wonderful addition to the genre and well worth the watch.
Two Loveable Leads
Dom (David Jonsson) and Yaz (Vivian Oparah) are definitely yin and yang. While Dom is an introvert wallowing in self-pity, he is also kind, thoughtful, and willing to go above and beyond for the people he cares about. Yaz is a wild card who is prone to a bit of “fake-it-til-you-make-it” bravado that can be disarming, but she’s just as empathetic as Dom. She’s not afraid to act on impulse and see where her choices lead her. They agree that everyone has their own mess. This understanding and the ability of each character to see potential in the other that they do not yet see in themselves is what makes them so great.
A Meet Cute (Or… Not So Cute)
Yaz initially overhears Dom sobbing loudly in the bathroom stall next to her at a mutual friend’s art gallery show. After seeing Dom’s hot pink sneakers under the stall door, she recognizes him outside the restroom and decides to make sure he is okay. Turns out, he’s not. After six years, Dom’s girlfriend cheated on him with his best friend and he never saw it coming.
A Unique Troublesome Situation
Not only was Dom cheated on by his girlfriend with his best friend, but three months later they have invited him to dinner to “clear the air” at the very restaurant he used to frequent with his ex-girlfriend. Yaz suggests she tag along but Dom is trepidatious. They’ve only just met. On the other hand, Yaz shares her own breakup story with Dom and recounts how one of her favorite records, which her ex does not like, is still in his apartment … you know what’s coming.
At Least One Great Sidekick
Rye Lane focuses on its two leads with little time spent on friends or sidekicks but we do get some brief scenes with a few memorable characters, in particular, their artist friend Nathan, his kind and supportive girlfriend, Cass, and some very judgemental “Aunties” who long for Yaz and her ex to get back together but let her and Dom stop by their backyard BBQ while Yaz (secretly) looks for a key to her ex’s apartment.
Super Fun Montage
In Allen-Miller’s film, Dom and Yaz traverse the South London districts of Brixton and Peckham. They wander in and out of markets, ride the see-saw in a park, and even perform a little Salt n’ Pepa karaoke together. They bring each other out of their shells and get each other out of their ruts. When they finally borrow a scooter from the aforementioned Aunties, Yaz drives with Dom clinging on for dear life before deciding to relax and go along for the ride.
Relationship in Jeopardy
Up until this point in the story, Dom has had no idea that Yaz was the voice in the bathroom stall next to him when he was crying. He also believes Yaz’s version of the story where she was the one who dumped her ex (not the other way around). Once these truths come to light, Dom feels betrayed and Yaz is embarrassed and defensive. All of the fun and joy they experienced together that day sours as they part ways and each goes home alone.
The Lightbulb Moment
Yaz starts texting Dom but keeps deleting her messages before sending any to him. Dom, back at his parent’s house, initially falls into old patterns, playing video games, until he begins to take small risks outside of his comfort zone. He decides to finally “try the spicy burrito” (and I mean that both literally and figuratively) as he realizes that being too cautious and closed off is not what he wants out of life or love. Yaz tries to stay strong solo, but when she thinks she sees Dom outside the movie theater she follows a stranger for a while before realizing it’s not him. After passing on an interview for her dream job earlier in the film due to self-doubts, Yaz finally gets a job doing what she loves. She starts to realize that Dom believed in her the whole time, even when she did not yet believe in herself. When their friend Nathan has a new art show opening, both Dom and Yaz are reminded of how they met each other.
A Grand Gesture or Epic Line
“This needs to be iconic, it’s the end of the movie, he deserves…some kind of grand gesture.” In the film’s climax, Yaz decides that Dom is the one who deserves a grand gesture. Her efforts call back to a story she told earlier in the film about her relationship with her ex and prove that Dom is the type of person she really wants to be with.
A Happy Ending
Yaz apologizes to Dom and says she’s sorry for lying about getting dumped but she liked the way Dom saw her that day (calling her “iconic”) so she lied to keep up the persona of confidence. Dom says it wouldn’t have mattered and that he would have thought she was cool either way, to which Yaz replies, “Yeah, I know that now.” They find each other and finally get to kiss in that epic 360-degree spinning footage you have grown to expect at the climax of any romance before we get the film’s title card. Well done.
Rye Lane is now streaming on Hulu.
Besides watching TV and movies, Diana likes plants, the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school dropout. You can follow her on Instagram @dldimuro and Twitter @DianaDiMuro