By Yasmin Omar
Picture this: an insalubrious public toilet in a Peckham art gallery. Our hero Dom (David Jonsson) is caught in a less than heroic moment, whimpering loudly over his ex-girlfriend’s #couplegoals Instagram reel. She’s painting a wall a sickly, Pepto Bismol pink with her new partner, who also happens to be his best friend. Yas (Vivian Oparah) is in the adjacent stall and, upon hearing Dom’s whinnying sobs, checks in on him. She offers emotional support, he refuses it, and she awkwardly fumbles to wash her hands and exit post haste. This is the meet-not-so-cute that kick-starts Rye Lane, Raine Allen-Miller’s vibrant, lived-in rom-com. Merrily jaunting down south London’s candy-coloured streets, it captures the dynamism of a neighbourhood – and a burgeoning relationship.
While heartbreak is usually the starting point of a rom-com, the catalyst that sets the plot in motion, it is threaded through Rye Lane. Over the course of a single day, Dom and Yas share their romantic failures, commiserate and seek closure. Despite this thematic weight, the film is light on its feet: the dialogue snaps, the wit zings and the chemistry crackles. Jonsson, best known for playing a dead-eyed banker in Industry, reveals a softer side here with his puppyish, heart-on-sleeve demeanour. As foregrounded by his tearful outburst in the loos, Dom is a sensitive soul, so wounded by the demise of his six-year relationship that he’s back at home licking his wounds and thumbing his PlayStation, subsisting on his mother’s constantly refreshing supply of boiled eggs and soldiers. Yas, conversely, seems overjoyed to have separated from the pompous boyfriend who was, as she puts it, ‘trying to dilute my squash’. To her, becoming basic is a fate worse than death; she only feels truly alive when being spontaneous, unpredictable. Oparah communicates Yas’ chandelier-swinging extraversion through her performance, nailing the delivery of all of the character’s rapid-fire jokes.