Life is full of little chance encounters that can turn into life-changing experiences, moments that, in the future, make you wonder “how different would my life be if this never happened.” This is a central theme of Raine Allen-Miller’s excellent feature directorial debut, rom-com “Rye Lane”
Starting in, of all places, a poorly kept and slimy-looking unisex toilet at an art exhibit about mouths, Dom (played by David Jonsson) is having an emotional breakdown in a stall after finding out his ex is repainting their old flat with her new boyfriend. This over-the-top reaction is interrupted by Yas (Vivian Oparah), asking if he’s OK. After quickly exiting from the beyond awkward situation, the two meet later in the exhibit, where they discover both are reeling from bad break-ups with long-term partners. We follow them throughout the whole day as they walk around Rye Lane (in Peckham South London) and reveal all about their breakups, finding ways to get over them and move on. For Dom, this means confronting his ex, who cheated on him with his dimwit childhood best friend, in a restaurant which is the funniest scene in the movie as Yas pretends to be Dom’s girlfriend and goes on to grill the both of them for their treatment of him. For Yas, the two go on an over-the-top venture to get her favourite record that her ex holds onto from the breakup. Jonsson and Oparah are both phenomenal, they have picture-perfect chemistry that just rubs off on you from the moment they meet.
Fuelled by the excellent costumes, set pieces and production design, the film has a terrific colour pallet and overall aesthetic which really grounds you in the location. Every location feels lived in, with excellent attention to detail it teems with almost documentary-like footage, often focusing on background characters going about their day which really uplifts the setting, giving you so much to look at and appreciate. It is clear Miller was inspired by Wes Anderson, whose style is often ‘copied’ by other filmmakers. Still, Miller and cinematographer Olan Collardy manage to find their own style and be wholly unique, making “Rye Lane” really come into its own.
Paced brilliantly, the 82-minute-long feature is very episodic going from one set piece to the next often including long scenes of the central characters talking and interacting with the world around them. The film often sits with a scene and allows for small moments that do not drive the plot forward directly, with such a short runtime this could be an issue but the writing is so poignant that every moment is treasured and puts the biggest smile on your face while you watch. While “Rye Lane” is shot and acted brilliantly, it really works because it's so hilarious, the writing is phenomenal and so fluid, it is clear the actors had so much room to work with the material and the sharp editing elevates all these components to make this into one of the most tightly constructed movies of the year.
“Rye Lane” was the first feature for most of the cast and crew, so it is a complete and total triumph that it all flows together so flawlessly and gives us this terrific final product, Raine Allen-Miller has become one of the most exciting new British directors, with Yas and Dom becoming one of the best couples in years, in what is one of the best rom-coms of the decade so far.