PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 23: (L-R) David Jonsson, Raine Allen Miller, and Vivian Oparah attend the 2023 Sundance Film Festival “Rye Lane” Premiere at The Ray Theatre on January 23, 2023 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
By Bailey Pennick
Delightful. There’s no other word to describe Raine Allen-Miller’s feature debut, Rye Lane. But, maybe the best word to describe it is refreshing. Oh, but what about vibrant? Damn. Well, how would co-writer Nathan Bryon describe the film?
“One of my inspirations coming towards the project was black joy,” Bryon says during the Rye Lane post-premiere Q&A. “My life is really joyful and I want to show that on screen!” Fellow co-writer Tom Melia adds that the writing duo both “love rom-coms unapologetically.” This mixture of jubilant tone and pacing with classic romantic comedy misadventures tracks completely when watching the origin story of Dom (a brilliantly awkward David Jonsson) and Yas (a charming Vivian Oparah).
Not exactly a meet-cute — Yas stumbling upon Dom weeping in a gallery bathroom over the fact that his longtime girlfriend just left him for his best friend — Rye Lane follows the mismatched pair, both secretly pining over their recent exes, over one long day of south London escapades. Delicious pun-(and surprising cameo!) filled meals in Brixton market, hesitant scooter rides through crowded city streets, and quiet moments in brightly colored playgrounds provide the film its texture and its heart. According to Allen-Miller, the neighborhoods in Rye Lane are essential. “It was important that this film felt like our London,” she explains. “It needed to feel fresh and not how you’d imagine south London to be portrayed. A lot of the crew live, or grew up in, south London and it’s a wonderful place. It was important for us to show it in all its glory.”
One of the ways that south London pops within the film was a deliberate and technical choice by Allen-Miller and cinematographer Olan Collardy: “It’s so important to shoot on wide lenses [in south London] because when you’re sitting there having a coffee in Brixton market or whatever, there’s a cowboy like way over there [gestures far to the right of the stage] or there’s a guy pushing a pram with a dog in it [gestures far to the left]! And that’s happening, but we’re still having that conversation! I really wanted to show that, and Olan and I nerded out about this quite a bit.”
The result is a unique and fresh look for a film about budding friendships/maybe romance. “Comedy should be more beautiful,” Allen-Miller passionately exclaims. “I’m not saying that it isn’t, but there’s a world where it can always be more beautiful.” And from its gorgeous costume design to its incredibly hip production design, Rye Lane swings for the fences to shake up the cookie cutter rom-com.
But, that brings us full circle to wondering what the best word is to describe this innovative take on an age-old genre. As expected, the film’s director nails it instantly. “The script, written by Nathan and Tom, was just simply hilarious,” she says, recounting what actually drew her to make Rye Lane. “I was reading it on the Eurostar and I embarrassed myself laughing in front of people! I’d originally thought, ‘there’s no way I’ll direct a film I haven’t written,’ but when I read the script I was like, ‘I couldn’t write these jokes — they’re so funny.’”
Hilarious. There’s no other word to describe Raine Allen-Miller’s feature debut, Rye Lane.