This week HeyUGuys fell in love, deeply and irrevocably in love, with a couple we’d never met before. We laughed with them, hoped for them, cringed with them and sighed over them. And it all began with a pair of ugly break-ups and a quick chat on Rye Lane

Dom (David Jonsson) has had his heart broken. Properly stomped and shattered. Forced to return to the sympathetic embrace of his childhood home – where boiled eggs come with soldiers and his every need is catered to – the last place the woebegone accountant wants to be is at a trendy gallery humouring the singular photographic skills of his smug mate.

Yas (Vivian Oparah) appears to have taken her breakup a bit more on the chin. Her ebullient spirit would not allow her to stay crushed by the crapness of an ex so she is bemused to overhear Dom sobbing in a toilet cubicle and intrigued enough to follow up on his story when she recognises his distinctive Chucks on a cute guy taking in the art.

In spite of himself, Dom is drawn into conversation with the inquisitive stranger. There is something disarming about Yas’s directness and, although he squirms a little under the spotlight of her attention, he is soon trailing in her wake; a reluctant passenger on her dancing journey through the streets of Peckham and Brixton.

For a people person like Yas, the notion that Dom is about to meet up with the woman who pulverised his heart is a fantastical one. Even more so when she learns that the new man she is bringing along is a childhood friend of Dom’s. He turns down her offer of wing-womaning the meet-up but Yas isn’t really in the mood to take no for an answer…

Cards on the table: Rye Lane pretty much had us at its initial weep cute. Good rom-coms have an emotional resonance that helps you invest in their protagonists’ bond. Really good rom-coms go one step further and bring you along for the ride, trailing beside the couple and shadowing the ups and downs of their relationship journey in a shiny happy Wizard of Oz bubble.

There may be no magical realism in Rye Lane but that trapped in a bubble of happiness sensation abides. Director Raine Allen-Miller and writers Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia understand the importance of specificity in a story. Together they have imagined and realised a tangible sense of personality and place that is enchanting to be around.

Rye Lane casts a spell that at times recalls the meandering loveliness of Before Sunrise. It helps enormously that Jonsson and Oparah have a fizzy and believable chemistry and bags of charm to boot. Oparah nails a hilariously frank delivery style and quirky tangents that would be obnoxious in less capable hands and a thread of steel in Jonsson’s sweetness stops Dom from becoming a soft boy parody.

Olan Collardy’s cinematography makes delightful use of the thoughtfully chosen South London landmarks. A free-flowing conversation as Dom and Yas warp and weft through the paved paths in the walled garden at Brockwell Park feels like a number from an old musical. The bobbing heads of vibrant flowers and Tai Chi’ing locals add to the sense that the pair are tumbling out of ordinary days and down a romantic rabbit hole together.

The supporting cast is wonderful – with particularly memorable moments from Karene Peter and Benjamin Sarpong-Broni as Dom’s insensitive ex-girlfriend Gia and ex-best friend Eric – but the shining stars of Rye Lane are its location and its leads. Rye Lane is a window into a glorious, endangered, corner of London that will ultimately be washed away by the distasteful ‘progress’ of gentrification. And into the lives of two lost souls falling in like on its beloved streets.

Rye Lane opens across the UK on March 17

Rye Lane
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Emily Breen
Emily Breen began writing for HeyUGuys in 2009. She favours pretzels over popcorn and rarely watches trailers as she is working hard to overcome a compulsion to ‘solve’ plots. Her trusty top five films are: Betty Blue, The Red Shoes, The Princess Bride, The Age of Innocence and The Philadelphia Story. She is troubled by people who think Tom Hanks was in The Philadelphia Story and by other human beings existing when she is at the cinema.
rye-lane-reviewRye Lane is an essential film, a window into a glorious, endangered, corner of London that will ultimately be washed away by the distasteful ‘progress’ of gentrification. And into the lives of two lost souls falling in like on its beloved streets. We fell in love, you will too.