In her feature directorial debut, Raine Allen-Miller pinpoints the horrors and chaos of modern dating in the 21st century with Rye Lane. A hidden gem among the oversaturated romcom genre that had its debut at Sundance earlier this year and just made its way to the streaming service Hulu. The use of technology and apps has made dating more available and convenient for those terrified to start a conversation with a stranger in public, however, Rye Lane sticks to a somewhat more conventional method for its characters to find solace in each other and create a connection with a stroll through the Rye Lane Market in South London.
In any sense of the word, dating in the modern world can be quite challenging and cumbersome. It’s overwhelming but has its own benefits – meeting people you normally wouldn’t meet or think of having a connection with. People who will crack the hard-shelled exterior to push the comfort zone outward continuously. That is exactly what Rye Lane accomplishes with a tight 87-minute runtime. Allen-Miller gets more out of 87 minutes than most films do with 2 hours plus telling a similar story. From the beginning to end, Allen-Miller embraces the difficulties of comfort zones and breaking them to add a perspective full of charm and emotion.
When we first meet Dom (David Jonsson), he’s crying in a bathroom stall. Dom has just started to get back out into the world after breaking up with his ex-girlfriend of 6 years. He’s depressed, alone and unsure that life will ever be the same, but Dom made the first step in getting out of the house to attend a friends art show. In what Dom learns is gender-neutral bathroom, he meets Yas (Vivian Oparah) who both share the same mutual friend and something in common – both Dom and Yas are recently single and bond over their heartbreak through a simple walk across the Rye Lane Market.
It’s on this journey that both Dom and Yas get to know each other, opening up about their personal lives and why both have suddenly become single. The conversation is organic, the laughs are genuine which starts off more conservative, pushing the boundaries with a sense of more layers added on to the depth and its credit is due to the two sincere performances by David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah. They are adorable together and their chemistry alone is worth checking for Rye Lane when the two captivate one another, making dents into the heavily guarded walls each have built because of their failed romances.
Setting the atmosphere early on is an overhead shot of the gender-neutral bathroom by cinematographer Olan Collardy. Panning through each stall, the diversity of South London leaps off the screen and follows the two reserved individuals throughout their walk. This is a world where culture over runs the streets, South London becomes a character in itself, every pedestrian that pops up is an individual and style and polish of South London is a warm welcome to its visitors. Take Dom and Yas’s mutual friend – the art exhibit is full of high-resolution photos of teeth and mouths. Whizzing by is a collector on a motorized hoverboard. Conventional 9-5’s don’t rule this world even though Dom is an accountant whereas the opposite can be said for Yas – she is an aspiring costume designer for films.
Along the way, we learn the harsh realities behind both Dom and Yas’s breakups. Who can’t put themselves in Dom and Yas’s shoes – that’s the beauty of this film. Together, Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia unlock a hidden confidence in their characters that neither quite knew about nor had any desire to discover for themselves. This is where David and Vivian shine the most, pushing one another past their comfort zones which translates to their characters. When we meet Dom, he’s reserved, he doesn’t stand up for himself, but its Yas’s own bravado that Dom can find his own voice and vice versa.
Rye Lane doesn’t spend most of its time bringing up one person, both require the growth to be better versions of themselves. Finding the right person helps and the saying is true – you find someone when you least expect it, when you’re not even looking for them.
To match the visual appeal of South London is a soundtrack that speaks volumes for itself. Different genres ranging from old-school hip hop to Jazz to R&B sets the mood for the few locales that get visited throughout the unscheduled and unofficial date Dom and Yas are on. It’s in one scene at a karaoke bar that epitomizes what Rye Lane is all about. Bryon and Melia get the most out of their characters when they’re the most vulnerable – that’s when both Dom and Yas find their hidden confidence and trust one another that despite all the hardships and past choices that were experienced, as long as they have each other in this moment, everything will be ok.
Two people who lift each other up, who listen and change themselves for the better control this heartwarming story. The flavor and motion of Small Axe‘s Lovers Rock meets the serenity of The Before Trilogy and you have Rye Lane. Allen-Miller showcases her talent behind the screen with a human nature we all can relate to while providing one of the best films of the year paired with a flair of originality throughout that reminds us to be weird, unique and confident. Allen-Miller makes little effort to tell a profoundly entertaining love story. Don’t let the run time fool you, before you know it, the happy ending is approaching and the euphoria of watching this romance blossom sticks with you raising the bar as a tough act to follow. Rye Lane delivers on its promise, providing a cathartic experience through two peoples budding relationships while also being a destination for healing and moving on from our own situations. There’s comfort in knowing not everyone has life figured out nor is anyone fully confident or excused from feeling lost and alone.
Screenplay By: Nathan Bryon & Tom Melia
Directed By: Raine Allen-Miller
Music By: Kews
Cinematography: Olan Collardy
Starring: David Jonsson & Vivian Oparah
Where to Watch: Hulu
Edited By: Victoria Boydell
Release Date: March 31, 2023
Running Time: 1 Hour 22 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%