When Yas (Vivian Oparah) hits the co-ed bathroom at a friend’s boyfriend’s gallery opening, she hears sobbing coming out of one of the stalls and expresses concern. Recognizing Dom’s (David Jonsson, HBO's 'Industry') pink hi-tops later, Yas strikes up a conversation and lights a spark as the two stroll along “Rye Lane.”
Laura's Review: B
Director Raine Allen Miller makes her feature directorial debut with a smart and witty script by television scribes Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, their talents melding into something that plays like “Before Sunrise” crossed with a more benign “After Hours” and a dash of “Amelie”-esque fantasy. Oparah and Jonsson play opposites attracting, her outspoken daring and his quiet caution feeding the filmmakers’ vision.
The film begins and ends with overhead shots, the first (cinematography by Olan Collardy) tracking over those bathroom stalls until stopping on the sobbing Dom. He’s there to support the artist, Nathan (Simon Manyonda, "The Current War"), who is psyched that someone is about to offer a thousand pounds for a picture of his cousin’s molars (his photography exhibit consists of close ups inside mouths). Dom is horrified, though, to learn that Nathan attended a painting party at Dom’s ex Gia’s (Karene Peter), not only painting over his own recent work but acknowledging her new relationship with his best friend Eric (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni). When Dom leaves, so does Yas, peppering him with questions to draw him out.
Yas leads Dom into more and more outrageous situations, her ‘crashing’ his meeting with Gia after he asked her not to turning the tables and giving him a rush of adrenaline that will find him more and more willing to do things he normally wouldn’t, getting him into some hilarious situations. The two actors engage in a bit of cross-over in the third act, the only place the writing slumps with an inevitable, if not entirely believable, romantic obstacle
Miller keeps switching things up, distorting images with wide angle lenses and using artificial sets for flashback recreations, the best of which plunks Dom in a balcony to watch a ‘scene’ of Yas and her ex Jules (Malcolm Atobrah). Real life situations, like Dom being thrown into a backyard barbecue with a bunch of strangers, are so colorfully drawn in both set decoration and supporting character, they feel fantastical as well. Soundtrack selections, like the embarrassingly uncool playlist on Dom’s iPhone that gets played at that barbecue, add to the film’s quirky tone.
Miller’s film veers towards hyperactive, her frenetic style a bit exhausting, but there are so many genuine laughs to be had it’s best to hang on and go along for the ride. While there’s an innocent explanation for just why Dom is caught with his hand in his hostesses’ underwear drawer, Yasmine’s movement of Jules’ new girlfriend Tabby’s (Alice Hewkin) moon cup from the medicine cabinet to the refrigerator is very intentional. And you just have to love a film whose protagonist judges prospective mates by whether or not they wave at boats.
Robin's Review: B-
Yas (Vivian Oparah) and Dom (David Jonsson) meet in the restroom at a trendy gallery show for his friend, Nathan (Simon Manyonda). He is sobbing in a stall when she finds him, brokenhearted, after his girlfriend, Gia (Karene Peter), unceremoniously dumped him. This begins a buddy-ship that will bring the new friends and kindred spirits together on “Rye Lane.”
First-time helmer Raine Allen Miller takes the screenplay by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia and tells a sweet story, first of friendship, then of romance as we get to know Yas and Dom. Their impromptu first meeting is wrought with self-pity by Dom wallowing in his unfathomable grief after Gia dumps him for his best friend. Yas, being the practical one, takes Dom under her wing to help him snap out of his self-imposed misery.
Gia, thinking she is the bigger of the two and more mature, invites Dom to dinner with her new boyfriend and his former BFF, Eric (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni). He rejects Yas’s offer to be his wing man at the dinner, but she shows up anyway and throws a wrench into Gia’s plan to be the bigger person. What follows is the building of the inevitable romance between our leads.
Do not expect anything new or different in this nicely done rom-com. Do expect two very likable characters that have a believable chemistry between them. I found myself rooting for the two, wanting them to be together in the end. I was not disappointed.
Searchlight releases “Rye Lane” to stream on Hulu beginning on 3/31/23.