An entertaining little British comedy.
Set in London, the film follows Yas and Dom who, after an awkward but fateful meeting in unisex toilets, go on a soul-searching wander through town, trying to reconcile their histories with ex lovers.
Feature film debut by director Raine Allen-Miller, Rye Lane features small screen actors David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah as Dom and Yas. Dom is a fairly closeted but well-meaning young man who is deep in the throws of a big break-up; lost and miserable and self-pitying. His perspective takes a wild blow when he meets Yas, a firecracker personality who takes nothing from anyone, and wants to live life to the fullest.
The two immediately strike a harmony together as they both have exes who wronged them. As a result, Yas puts them on a mission to take back a record that she left in her ex’s possession. But as Yas says, early on, “everyone has messes”, and maybe her eccentric behaviour is masking something else?
Here in the UK, Rye Lane has been heavily advertised, so much so that this week we review it over Shazam: Fury of the Gods. Honestly, good. Because Rye Lane is a solid comedy.
The comedy has some interesting directorial flair; Raine Allen-Miller is credited for commercials, and it shows. Exterior scenes are regularly filmed with a fish-eye lens, bending the roads and streets around our two characters as they move around, extending our perspective but also focussing us on the characters.
There are a lot of scenes with the characters speaking one-to-one, but the actors are speaking straight down the barrel of the camera; with the back-and-forth reciprocated with the shots of each actor mirroring one another. There’s even a scene with the two talking in a pub, but instead of the camera sitting across from them, with them on the left and right of the composition, the camera edits between them, with each on the far left frame and far right frame. Suggesting closeness but also not “togetherness”?
This experimental or perhaps overbearing direction might not jive with everyone, but mixed up with the great colours, cinematography, and set dressing on display, it all gives the film a quirky, lively expressionism.
Indeed, the characters themselves are very lively, with the film going into surrealist “flashback” scenes when one of them talks about their past. Again, quirky and lively. The comedy too, is on point. Especially a scene where Dom confronts his ex (who is now dating his best friend.)
The weirdness of British society is captured too. Surprisingly. A great representation of London and the country’s frequently bizarre personality. Sure, end a scene with a random tiny girl on a tricycle screaming her head off. Sure, have a main character say hi to a random party-goer outside of a house, smoking a cigarette and dressed in a tired bunny girl outfit. Yep. That’s the UK, alright.
It isn’t… perfect, though.
The film can be appreciated for its simplicity, but it does go through some cliche writing for the sake of “doing something”, or runtime. When it saddles itself with false drama, even for just five minutes, the air rushes out of the room. Just be a neat, lively little comedy of two people getting along and letting bygones be bygones… don’t do the rug pull, especially the obvious rug pull.
It was a nice little time, overall. The chemistry of the characters is really good, the comedy and the direction is quirky and cartoonish. It would be great to see more from this cast and crew; it is only a BBC funded movie, so more from this talented team is very welcome!