- Film & TV
- 17 Mar 23
Our deep dive into one of the year’s best comedies, Rye Lane, starts by meeting its director, Raine Allen-Miller, and young stars David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah. We then highlight the cultural richness of Peckham, home to the real Rye Lane and one of London’s coolest neighbourhoods; and check out the genre-straddling soundtrack.
Rye Lane is a romantic comedy set in South London about two young people falling in love, whilst finding themselves in the process. Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah) are both fresh out of break-ups when they meet in an unlikely spot. As they try to help each other achieve some closure, they spend an adventurous and illuminating day together, exploring one of London’s most exciting neighbourhoods.
It’s a fun and vibrant story, which needed a stellar cast and crew to deliver on all its abundant potential. Enter debut director and a 2021 Screen Star of Tomorrow, Raine Allen-Miller, who grew up in South London, and was thus primed to represent Peckham onscreen, with all its colour and character blazing.
After studying Art & Media at the Brit School, and illustration at Camberwell College of Arts, Allen-Miller had carved out a a career in advertising, working at Saatchi & Saatchi, Anomaly and Mother. But in 2016, she directed her first music video for Salute’s ‘Storm’: it was a moment when her vision really began to come to life. A pre-Brexit video celebrating immigration and diversity in the UK, it marked Allen-Miller as one to watch.
In 2018, her short Jerk premiered at the BFI London Film Festival to huge acclaim. The story of an elderly Jamaican man’s battle with depression, the empathetic effort again showed the director’s vision and desire to bring diverse stories to the screen. Jerk brought Allen-Miller to the attention of BBC Film, and she was approached about directing the then-untitled rom-com that would eventually become Rye Lane. But not before the director put her own unique stamp on the screenplay.
“I always insisted that I would write my first feature film,” she says. “But when Damian Jones sent me the Rye Lane script, I gave it a read and embarrassed myself laughing out loud on the train. I loved the dialogue, but also felt like there was a lot of room to develop the script and add my touch.”
Allen-Miller relocated Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia’s story from Camden in north London to Peckham and Brixton in the south of the city, and edited the screenplay, paying more attention to the female characters.
“I don’t want to put it solely in a rom-com box,” she asserts. “It’s a film that spends time with two people who you just love immediately. Yes it’s funny, and yes it’s romantic, but it exists as much more than that.”
The director also brought her visually inventive style to the film, launching us headlong into her playful and vibrant world. As with any romantic comedy, the audience has to fall for the lead characters – and of course they do. They’re helped of course by the fact that the actors are so naturally charismatic. David Jonsson plays rule-following Dom, while Vivian Oparah plays the eccentric and disarming Yas, who has never been afraid of a challenge.
Jonsson previously performed opposite David Tennant in Patrick Marber’s play Don Juan In Soho, and has appeared in the TV hit Industry, as well as shows like Endeavour and Deep State. Oparah’s credits, meanwhile, include TV favourites like the Doctor Who spin-off Class and Michaela Coel’s massively acclaimed I May Destroy You.
The film begins with the spotlight on Dom (Jonsson), who’s reeling from a break-up with his long-term partner, Gia.
“He’s massively different from any character I’ve played, and that was what I wanted,” Jonsson enthuses. “Dom is struggling with what he wants to say, how he wants to say it, and what’s going through his head – and that works, because Yas knows how to pull stuff out of him.”
Crying in the toilets at his friend’s exhibition is a low point, but things begin to look brighter when he meets Yas, whom has secretly and unintentionally overheard his breakdown.
“Yas is this fireball, she’s just crazy,” explains Oparah. “I love her and she deserves to be loved, because she’s so cool, but also so in need of love. It’s so easy to assume that people who are outwardly fine, are fine – but sometimes they’re not really, and I liked that about her character.”
Yas’s infectious energy and signature wit immediately drew Oparah to the role.
“I liked how messy of a character she is. Usually in rom-coms, the guy does the grand gestures after messing everything up, but I like how the film subverts that. I enjoyed being a character who’s allowed to be messy and have things to sort out. I feel like there aren’t women characters who are allowed to just exist in their chaos and sort it all out freely, which I enjoyed.”
Allen-Miller agrees, having worked with the writers and producers to shape Yas’ character.
“With rom-coms, there is this archetypal story arc,” she says. “The funny guy who can rely on just being funny, and then the portrayal of the really attractive girl wandering around, who just exists to absorb his brilliance. With Rye Lane, I wanted to make the woman truly funny, without the pressure of needing to be polished 24/7.”
• Rye Lane is released in cinemas nationwide on March 17
The new issue of Hot Press is out now, starring The Edge.
- Film & TV
- 31 Mar 23
- Film & TV
- 30 Mar 23