“Rye Lane,” a love story set in South London, stars David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah as the romantic leads, Dom and Yas. The film is the creation of Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, whose idea for the fresh romantic comedy was hatched during a conversation on WhatsApp some five years ago. The screenwriters wanted to make a slice-of-life story that reflected stories like “When Harry Met Sally” and “Before Sunset,” but with “cute dates in chicken shops,” as they envisioned it.
“Rye Lane” follows Dom and Yas as they walk together, talking and becoming closer as they share their experiences with bad breakups. Dom remembers renting out Morley’s, a popular London fried chicken joint, to impress his ex-girlfriend Gia, who was not impressed, but Yas loves the idea and tells Dom that it is her “dream date.”
The film’s director, Raine Allen-Miller who is of Jamaican descent, built upon Bryon and Melia’s chicken joint idea and decided “Rye Lane” should be “a love letter” to the South London neighborhoods of Brixton and Peckham. These locations reflected Allen-Miller’s growing up when she moved to South London from Manchester. One of the first things she did upon moving to the historically Afro-Caribbean neighborhood was to go to the Brixton Market with her grandmother. She was happy to find specific Afro goods on sale, as well as Jamaican patties, plantain, hard dough bread, and “a flat white with oat milk.”
While the film reflects the gentrification of the neighborhoods and is a good foundation for a story, it is not necessarily positive, Allen-Miller noted. The inspiration for dealing with the issue relates to the Spike Lee film, “Do the Right Thing” in that it is a picture of a specific place at a specific moment in time as the neighborhood is about to change. The key to “Rye Lane” is to capture the locale now in a real and positive way to illustrate the Black British experience, she said, and while she did not intend to create a rom-com film, she related to the story’s humor and simplicity and found it to be a “funny, happy story” that has a “strong sense of place.”
“Rye Lane” is packed with memorable images, including a scene with a backyard party depicting dominoes being played and jerk chicken and Wray & Nephew’s white rum being served, all with reggae music playing. As mentioned, the Brixton Market, a staple of the Jamaican and Caribbean community, has a major role in the film, and viewers will see that the scooter helmets worn by the film’s stars as they ride around South London proudly display the Jamaica flag.
The first-hand knowledge that the writers and director have about South London is also on display in their use of slang, using terms like “safe (good, cool),” “prang out (worry, panic),” and “bare peas (lots of money,” to provide the authentic sound of the area’s speech.
“Rye Lane” began streaming in the United States on Hulu on March 31, 2023.