Rye Lane is the debut feature from writer-director Raine Allen-Miller. Her movie takes the breezy tropes of rom-coms and gives them her own spin. The film starts with Dom (David Jonsson) sobbing in a public restroom over a recent heartache. Then he sees Yas (Vivian Oparah) looking at him with empathy.

The Story

A giddy British romance set in colorful, bustling South London, Rye Lane brings new life to the genre by embracing the familiar. It takes full advantage of its locations, transforming them into an immersive world of parks, karaoke bars and food markets filled with eccentric characters. It also flits between scenes, allowing you to fully experience the dynamic of Dom and Yas’ relationship.

Its plot is fairly straightforward, reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, and its cast is anchored by charismatic performances from David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah. Jonsson is a hearteningly down-to-earth introvert, while Oparah adroitly avoids the manic pixie dream girl trope that has rotted the teeth of many romcoms.

Despite these strengths, Rye Lane struggles to find its footing. The yesmovies film’s reliance on quick edits, unconventional camerawork and imaginative flashback sequences can often feel clumsy, and the way it allows its leads to narrate their backstories feels more suited for a single-camera sitcom.

The Cast

The romcom has been in such an anemic state that anything approaching a good one feels like a miracle. Thankfully Rye Lane, the debut of writer/director Raine Allen-Miller, is exactly that. The film breathes new life into the genre, staying true to its roots (though not completely sanding them down) by keeping the focus on the relationships and needs of its two leads.

Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson are both marvelous, bringing an irreverent and unapologetic energy to their characters. Moreover, the way they present their own egos and insecurities gives this otherwise conventional meet-cute a distinctly fresh feel.

Supporting players, such as Gia (Karene Peter) and Eric (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni), also add depth to their roles. Finally, Olan Collardy’s camerawork helps to frame South London into a vivid world that we want to stay in. A surprise cameo from a big-name A-list actor as the chef of a local burrito joint serves as a satirical wink to Richard Curtis movies, while the film’s kaleidoscopic color palette and hip-hop soundtrack are a playful nod to contemporary cultural touchstones.

The Visuals

Director Raine Allen-Miller’s debut feature, Rye Lane (2023), is a London romance with plenty of charisma and cheek. It has all the ingredients of a well-worn genre – the meet-cute between two attractive youngsters, the stories about hellish exes, the sidestepping and flirting, and the anticipation for the first kiss – and yet it feels fresh thanks to the director’s flair and solid performances.

The film’s pacing is the biggest asset, keeping the audience engaged even when it runs into some of the genre’s rougher corners. And the director’s eye for bringing out the best in her cast is on display throughout, with a kickin’ soundtrack and vibrantly colorful setting blooming with detail that add a lot of oomph to the story. The result is a rhythmically bouncy romantic comedy that keeps the smiles coming. Featuring two fantastic leads in Dom and Yas, Rye Lane is a joy to watch. A solid, believably sweet story of two heartbroken youngsters connecting over a day in South London.

The Overall

Witty banter and two leads with chemistry that ignites on screen can make for a winning romantic comedy. But it can also feel like a lost art form when such rom-coms trudge through the rougher corners of romance with predictable plotting and over-the-top contrivances.

Rye Lane, directed by Natalia Allen-Miller and written by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, tosses together all the requisite ingredients: a meet-cute full of charm, exes with hellish pasts, plenty of teasing and taunting, mooncups, sidestepping, and an inevitable reunion.

The result is a fresh-faced movie that feels like a shot in the arm for rom-coms. A vibrant South London setting blooming with detail, a kickin’ soundtrack and an all-around lightness of touch lends it a bouncy spirit that keeps the film frothy even as it confronts the familiar tropes of its genre. Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson make for a winning pair of twentysomethings, and the film’s ebullient tone and relatable cringes leave the viewer with a big smile on their face.