Rye Lane (2023) – film review
Directed by Raine Allen Miller.
Starring David Jonsson, Vivian Oparah, Karene Peter, Benjamin Sarpong-Broni, Malcolm Atobrah, Alice Hewkin, Simon Manyonda and Poppy Allen-Quarmby.
Two teenagers, devastated by bad breakups, come together on a busy day in south London.
Debut feature-length filmmaker Raine Allen Miller established herself immediately Rye Lane as a visually dazzling film that begins with an overhead tracking shot that glides over the various public toilet stalls. Each stand is vibrant with color and life, from fights and drugs to an over-the-top selfie to something more mundane like a mother changing her baby’s diaper, until we arrive at Dom (David Jonsson) who is discussing a breakup with an unfaithful man ex crying girlfriend Gia (Karene Peter), whom he’s less than three months away from finding out she’s cheating (via a clever scene involving a phone that cuts to a humorous flashback revealing the man was Dom’s childhood friend).
There’s a nice meeting along the way when aspiring cinematic costume designer Yas (Vivian Oparah) enters the booth next to Dom, curious as to what he’s crying about. Of course he wants privacy. The more important focus here is that Rye Lane has a stunning production design for a standard romantic comedy (courtesy of screenwriters Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia) in which two characters spend a day learning about each other’s ill-fated relationships, supporting and encouraging one another to grow, and then inevitably have a falling out culminating in an ending that they/will not get together. You’ve seen this movie thousands of times, but you’ve probably never looked so good.
Any frame of Rye Lane bursting with personality just as much as the mouth-portrait art gallery installation for Dom’s friend, the bustling area of south London (where cinematographer Olan Collardy captures bustling market squares and shopping complexes in such a way that each individual location feels different in color and purpose, happily too enough to dwell briefly on extras engaging in unique hobbies to add life) to the goofy cutaway flashbacks amusingly playing up today’s conversational dialogue as a joke.
The familiarity of the narration certainly won’t deter re-watching, as it’s a guarantee that although the film only lasts 76 minutes without credits, there’s a pleasantly overwhelming aesthetic stimulation that’s too much to absorb in a single viewing record. That’s not to say that sticking to conventional romantic comedy tropes is a disadvantage, either Rye Lanemore of an observation.
Yas is also moving forward from a breakup, despite coping differently than Dom, feeling happier and having found relief from a terrible relationship. She doesn’t want her partner back. She’s since agreed to meet up with Gia and her new boyfriend Eric (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni) so they can bury the hatchet and he can hang out with his best friend again. Yas sees it differently and bluntly shouts at Dom for letting her walk all over him and decides to crash the meeting at the restaurant by posing as his new boyfriend in what is arguably the funniest scene. Eric is a self-absorbed fool, and Benjamin Sarpong-Broni delivers the dialogues perfectly and provides big laughs.
Whenever Dom asks questions about Yas’ ex-boyfriend, she’s reluctant to reveal details. Stranger, she seems anxious and nervous about pursuing what she wants in life, despite showing Dom a very outgoing side of herself. The story draws a parallel between these two characters and their failed relationships, with one more willing and willing to discuss the past and their feelings than the other.
From there, Rye Lane follows Dom and Yas through the hustle and bustle of the day, interacting with each other’s exes, bringing out the best in each other and discovering personal truths. It’s a cheerfully breezy and heartwarming watch with two charismatic performances from relative newcomers David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah. It’s not necessarily an emotionally powerful ride, but it’s still a blast hanging out with these characters while absorbing the film’s impressive technical accomplishments.
Flickering Myth Rating – Movie: ★★★ / Movie: ★★★★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the editor of Flickering Myth Reviews. Check here for new reviews, follow mine Twitter or letterboxd or email me at [email protected]