Credit Jeevan Farthing

Glasgow Film Festival 2023: Rye Lane

By Jeevan Farthing

The Scottish Premiere of Rye Lane very nearly sells out.

Naming a rom-com after a bustling street running through Peckham (South London) emphasises the 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 the chicken shop Morley’s, under the arches of the London Overground, or in 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 does not just provide effective and ridiculous entertainment – it preserves a culture which future generations may not get to appreciate.

Youth is ubiquitous in Rye Lane. The characters are 20-somethings, although they feel younger. They occasionally frequent bars and pubs; more memorable are the hours they spend dilly-dallying in small parks and run-down shopping centres. They’re immature – which makes them more endearing – crying into Greggs sausage rolls, or wrestling with whether they’re too old 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 engage in grand gestures suggests so, but the film would work equally well if they were friends. This rom-com is punctuated by petty misunderstandings, though it maintains the classic trajectory of a climax, crisis and resolution.

Rye Lane is not so much remarkable for its mess and silliness, but the precision sustaining it. The slang never misses, the aunties are overbearing, and Stormzy comes on at just the right time. It’s a love letter to Gen-Z, beautifully and accurately portrayed by Dom and Yaz agonising over text messages, going on chicken shop dates, and – despite a jobs and rental market determined to make their lives hell – being idiotic and lovable in their hedonism.


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