Film Reviews

RYE LANE Takes a Unique Route to a Familiar Destination


You can stylize a movie to death. We’ve all seen it: an idea that feels promising only to be buried under so much flair and panache as to be almost incomprehensible. RYE LANE, the new romantic comedy from English director Raine Allen-Miller, comes tantalizingly close to crossing that line. And, listen, I get it. RYE LANE is, at its most basic, a walk-and-talk rom-com in which very little of consequence actually happens. To attempt to spice up this relative plotlessness is an obvious move, but not one without risks. Pile on visual choices and you threaten to lose the viewer entirely, suffocating any spark of life the film has at its core. And yet, Allen-Miller is able to keep this—her first feature film—in the land of the living, allowing something that could be cloying or exhausting to instead become wholly exhilarating. 

Love is always about deceit. At least, that’s what the movies would have you believe. Think of any film that could rightly fall into the “romantic” genre and you will find almost every one hinges on some kind of lie—big, small, and everywhere in between. In RYE LANE, those lies are almost all internal, self-directed and neurotic. The first face we see belongs to Dom (David Jonsson), a headphone-clad South Londoner crying in the stall of a gender-neutral bathroom at an ill-conceived art exhibition, shortly followed by Yas (Vivian Oparah), a less-than consoling fellow piss-taker. Dom is losing grip on the idea that he is getting over his recent break-up, which involved his girlfriend of six years cheating on him with his best friend, while Yas, we learn, is lying to everyone about the nature of her own recent break-up.

Rye Lane Film

These back stories, which are essential as anything else in the two’s connection, are played for us in increasingly inventive ways; Dom’s is presented as a scene the two can walk through freely and Yas’s as a staged play they view from the rafters. Though Allen-Miller doesn’t fully tip her hand as to the validity of either story, the surrealistic nature of their portrayal is an effective representation of the kind of otherworldly existence these moments can take in one’s psyche, especially as they move further and further into the past. This becomes true for the moments occurring in the “present” as well, as their walk through South London often plays like a bizarro BEFORE SUNRISE, the vibrant city streets filmed through cinematographer Olan Collardy’s wide-angle lenses becoming dreamier and more exotic than the Vienna alleys. 

Where the film does match its spiritual predecessor is in the performances of its two leads, both of which will largely be new to American audiences—though Jonsson does appear on HBO’s drug-fueled banking drama, INDUSTRY. These two young actors could have easily been swallowed up by the constant frenzy happening within the frame of each scene but it is precisely their ability to ground all that hysteria in genuine chemistry that keeps things tethered to the earth. Even as RYE LANE enters the zanier, more contrived areas you might expect from a meet-cute romance, Allen-Miller, Jonsson, and Oparah are working in such tonal harmony that the film never loses you even as it heads toward its logical conclusion.

Sean Fennell
Sean Fennell is a pop culture obsessive from Philadelphia who's desperate attempt to watch, read, and listen to everything is the great battle of his time. Sean graduated with a Journalism degree from Shippensburg University in 2015 and since that time has been freelancing for sites all over the web, covering everything from music to television to movies and interviewing dozens of creative minds along the way. If you’re wondering whether he has seen or heard it, he has, and he has thoughts.

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