“Rye Lane” might be the quintessential breakup film, good medicine for a broken heart. Quirky, low budget and utterly charming, it tells the story of Dom and Yas — two south Londoners who meet in the unisex toilets of an oddball art exhibit and have quite an adventurous day.
The film is named after the street in Peckham, a south London borough with a large African British community that is still resisting gentrification. As a south Londoner myself, it was refreshing to see the real London on the silver screen, not the polished London most people think of from the Bond films or “Love Actually.” It’s unkempt, diverse and full of “explosion shops” as I call them (shops selling home goods with no organization and wares all over the floor - it looks like a bomb went off inside).
Depressing playgrounds, graffiti, piles of rubbish, tiny market bazaars and merchants of all sorts (I saw the tiny corner shop where I haggled over a pasta roller — I got it for 10 quid!) — are the norm. The characters discuss heartbreak on the very bench I spent much time crying on after my last breakup, in Brixton’s Brockwell park. None of the locations are famous, but they’re a slice of the real thing. It’s home. It felt like a real story I might hear down at the pub.
Dom and Yas have both just gotten out of relationships. Dom is a sweet natured, kind and mild-mannered accountant whose ex cheated on him with an old school friend. Yas is a vivacious and bombastic woman who aspires to work in costume design — her loudness masks a fear of vulnerability. Most of the film takes place in one day. The two get to know each other, talk about their pasts, and get into some hilarious hijinks including an impromptu moped ride and a break-and-enter. Dom learns a bit about standing up for himself, and Yas learns about the importance of being honest, even when it’s painful.
I could see the film gathering the same attention for this part of London that “Notting Hill” did for West London in the ‘90s. The Colin Firth cameo was hilarious. “Rye Lane” is witty, charming, rough around the edges and full of hope — there’s lessons to be learned from heartbreak, and there’s always a new and exciting romance around the corner if you open yourself up to it.