Review: Rye Lane (2023)


Well, I’ll be damned Disney Plus is indeed proving to be the best streaming service. Aside from its influx of Marvel and Star Wars fare, it’s also the place where indie British films get fast tracked. It’s incredible. But House of Mouse gushing aside, have you seen Rye Lane? Let me know in the comments below.


I’ve seen Rye Lane twice now and no doubt further viewings will be in my future. It’s a vibrant and alive piece of indie cinema about the masks we wear to hide our true feelings and vulnerabilities. Set in and around the title location, the 2023 film is about two twenty-somethings, Dom (David Johnson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah). Initially meeting in separate bathroom stalls, the pair get to know one another over a day in which they indulge in many adventures from live rapping to breaking and entering into an ex’s flat to get a record back.

In spirit, Rye Lane has two sources of inspiration in its rearview mirror. The first is Richard Linklater and most notably the Before Series, which depicts two characters getting to know each other over the course of a day (in real-time). There’s even a lovely homage to the last line of Before Sunset, in which Yas attempts to inject a sense of adventure in Dom by getting him to skip the notion of taking the last train home. At the same time, there’s something Wes Anderson-esque about the proceedings too. The quaint American auteur is felt here in bemused expressions that punctuate the awkward British humour that permeates the film.

My favourite is when Dom finds himself at a garden party in which he’s served “Wry and Nephew” rum and is given awkward looks when one of the adults he meets plays the songs he has on shuffle on his phone. The moment reminded me of the second-hand embarrassment charm that graced The Inbetweeners.

Also, much like other Anderson films, Rye Lane tips its hat to other mediums not only as a form of social construct (via Dom and Yas meeting through mutual friends at an art exhibition) but also as an equalizer via flashback scenes. These remembrances of the past are not told in a traditional manner where we get a dramatic blow-by-blow retelling. Instead, there’s a looseness to them whereby the person being told the memory has a direct interaction with them. They struck me like these casual and real-life versions of Twitter spaces whereby different speakers interact in a meaningful way.

Sequences like these diverge from the Before films but prove to be important in showing Rye Lane’s appeal. As much as establishing the forming connections between its two characters, Rye Lane is about how the world around them morphs and snakes around them, akin to an amorphous piece of performance art that’s constantly changing. From a gag involving a shopping centre cleaner saying “Boring!” to Dom’s profession as an accountant to a cinema patron shushing Yas in Dom’s memory construct, these moments are a great highlight of the picture.

Vivian Oparah is a firecracker presence as Yas. She charms with cynical, cool and seemingly transparent line readings that give way to a confident exterior that hides a highly vulnerable interior. Meanwhile, David Johnson contrasts this with a calculated sense of emotion. It sometimes feels like Dom is in control, but is often two seconds from an emotional outburst, and Johnson plays the notes of this emotional see saw with ease and intelligence.

Rye Lane bucks the trend of traditional romance movies because they often portray the male character as someone who puts on a front or makes a mistake that leads to the second act turmoil. Lane subverts this by having Yas embody these typical male characteristics with an emotional authenticity that feels tangible. Even a montage later in the film bucks a romantic comedy troupe of how forlorn the central lovers are apart, by realistically showing them go about their lives while subtly showing the effect they had on one another (via them indulging in hobbies or aspects the other introduced to them).

And therein lies the appeal of Rye Lane. It charms with its central couple getting to know each other for a day but delights in showing how exciting the world can be when sharing it with another person.


About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
This entry was posted in 2023, 2023 Film Reviews, 2023 Films, 2023 Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Review: Rye Lane (2023)

  1. Katie Carter says:

    This is probably my favorite movie of the year so far- great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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