Like so many great romantic comedies, “Rye Lane” opens with a meet-cute.
Within the stalls of a unisex bathroom at an exhibition opening, Dom (David Jonsson) is stalking his ex-girlfriend on his phone and weeping. Yas (Vivian Oparah), in a close-by stall, hears his tears and asks if he’s OK. This temporary exchange through the cubicle partitions begins an unexpectedly long, and eventful, day for the Londoners.
The film’s writers, Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, felt “Rye Lane” needed to one way or the other open in an art gallery, the pair said in a recent interview. Bryon said that Black people — like Yas and Dom — are rarely shown within the art world on film and TV.
Opening the movie “in that space, with this group of cool, beautiful-looking Black people, that to me feels so special,” he said.
This opening is one in every of some ways the creators of “Rye Lane,” which opens in theaters in Britain on Friday and can come to Hulu in the US on March 31, aim to inform a love story set in South London that feels true to their experiences, and their city.
“The story is admittedly easy. It’s two people walking around, talking about their breakups,” said Raine Allen-Miller, the film’s director, in an interview. “They meet on the mistaken time, but in addition the right time.”
Dom, who’s heartbroken after his girlfriend left him for his best friend, is timid and openly emotional, which Jonsson particularly admires. “I really like his vulnerability. I believe that there’s something quite gorgeous a couple of young Black man being straight-up heartbroken,” Jonsson said in an interview. “I’ve been heartbroken, but would I actually have allowed myself to go right into a restroom and cry my eyes out? Probably not.”
In contrast, Yas — who has also recently come out of a relationship, for reasons that unfold because the film does — is energetic, and prefers to supply a more curated version of herself.
The pair spend the day wandering around Peckham and Brixton, two vigorous and multicultural South London neighborhoods a brief bus ride from one another. “Rye Lane” takes its title from a principal street in Peckham, and these two neighborhoods turn into central characters within the film.
Dom and Yas stumble across scenarios and tableaus that remember the realm’s quirkiness: a person wearing mismatched clothing, including large animal jewelry, hands out social justice fliers; a lady in a bunny costume, harking back to Bridget Jones, smokes a cigarette outside a big house; at one point, an individual in a cowboy outfit skips past.
Bryon and Melia said they initially envisioned the 2 characters strolling through Camden, a well-liked a part of north London, also known for its exuberance. But after they sent Allen-Miller the script, she said she would only join the team if the film (her directorial debut) was set in South London. She desired to “almost write a love letter” to the realm, she said, having moved there at 12 to live together with her father and grandmother. “One in every of my fondest memories is walking around Brixton Market with my grandma and getting Jamaican spices,” she said.
Melia had previously lived in Brixton, and felt the placement still “matched what we were going for.” The script’s first draft “was a bit more like ‘Before Sunrise,’ insofar because it could almost be one shot,” he said. “By the point Raine read it, it had developed a bit further away from that anyway.”
The finished film is shot in a saturated color palette, and in parts with a fisheye camera lens. The dreamy, joyful atmosphere is in stark contrast with how Peckham and Brixton were once depicted within the mainstream British press. In 2007, The Guardian reported that “for greater than a generation,” Peckham had “been linked with drugs, gangs and violent murders.”
Recently, these areas in South London have also experienced significant gentrification, with house prices rising and wealthier people moving in, inadvertently hurting longstanding locals. Within the upcoming book “All The Houses I’ve Ever Lived In,” the journalist Kieran Yates details how, while living in Peckham in 2017, she witnessed “the sheer speed at which wealthy property developers saw a chance to maneuver in.” She later moved to Brixton, where an “influx of restaurants, farmer’s markets, galleries, cafes and bars has led to a spike in rent,” she wrote.
In making “Rye Lane,” Allen-Miller said she was “attempting to make a movie that may be a funny, completely happy day in South London,” before the results of gentrification made the realm completely unrecognizable. “I just desired to put it on a plinth, and capture the bits of it which can be beautiful and special,” she added.
This celebration is helped by cameos from well-known figures in Britain: the comedians Munya Chawawa and Michael Dapaah, the “It’s a Sin” actor Omari Douglas and the fact TV star Fredrik Ferrier. But one actor can be familiar to all viewers: Serving burritos in a store named Love Guac’tually is the godfather of rom-coms himself, Colin Firth.
Early in production, having a Firth cameo felt like a pipe dream to the writers. However the film’s executive producer, Sophie Meyer, had worked with the actor on the 2007 British comedy “St. Trinian’s,” and sent him a text. “We were like, ‘Yeah, good luck’,” Melia said. But Firth agreed, and was “such a great sport,” Byron said. “It is usually such a stunning nod to rom-coms for us.”
A small service-industry role like that “would normally possibly be the one person of color in a distinct film,” Melia said. Here, a white Oscar winner is playing it.
Regardless of the viewer’s knowledge of London and its various neighborhoods, the creators of “Rye Lane” hope the film will offer a fresh (and fun) perspective on town.
“The more traditional rom-coms show Londoners by the London Eye or Tower Bridge. But, let’s be honest, most Londoners are usually not having a pint by Tower Bridge because it should cost you 15 kilos,” Bryon said. “We wanted the movie and the placement to feel personal to the audience who realize it, and in addition to introduce Rye Lane to those coming to London.”