The Scottish Premiere of Rye Lane very nearly sells out.
Naming a rom-com after a bustling street running through the heart of Peckham (South London) emphasises the special importance of setting to Rye Lane. The plethora of spaces which Dom (David Jonsson) and Yaz (Vivian Oparah) navigate are unmistakably and proudly in Zone 2, whether that be chicken shop Morley’s, under the arches of the London Overground, or Brixton Market. In a Q&A, director Raine Allen Miller mentioned filming in the latter location as especially important, because South London is changing, and as the film highlights, art galleries with paintings of teeth and bumcheeks are jostling for its limited space. Rye Lane functions not just as effective and ridiculous entertainment, but the preservation of a culture which future generations may not get to appreciate.
Youth is ubiquitous in Rye Lane. The characters are 20-somethings, but they seem younger. They occasionally frequent bars and pubs, but this is overshadowed by their dilly-dallying in small parks and run-down shopping centres, a quintessentially teenage experience. They’re also immature – which makes them so endearing – crying into Greggs sausage rolls, or wrestling with whether they’re too immature to consume their mum’s dippy egg. Dom is (sometimes painfully) awkward, while Yaz lets go of opportunities because of fear. It’s all very human.
Are the two meant to be together? Their on-screen chemistry and propensity to elevate grand gestures suggests so, but the film would work equally well if they were friends. Many of the traditional tropes of a rom-com are rejected in favour of petty misunderstandings, which nonetheless maintain the classic trajectory of a climax, crisis and resolution.
Perhaps the best thing about Rye Lane is not the mess and silliness on screen, but the easily overlooked precision necessary to sustain it. The slang never misses, the aunties are perfectly overbearing, and Stormzy comes on at just the right time. Rye Lane is not just a rom-com, but a love letter to Gen-Z: agonising over text messages, going on chicken shop dates, and – despite a jobs and rental market determined to screw them over – both idiotic and lovable in their hedonism.