‘Rye Lane’ Aims to Show You a Real London Love Story

A rare British romantic comedy with Black leads, Raine Allen-Miller’s debut feature celebrates London neighborhoods that are changing fast.

In “Rye Lane,” David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah play heartbroken Londoners who spend a day wandering around two lively South London neighborhoods.Credit…Suzie Howell for The New York Times

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By Precious Adesina

Reporting from London

Like so many great romantic comedies, “Rye Lane” opens with a meet-cute.

In 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 nearby stall, hears his tears and asks if he’s OK. This brief exchange through the cubicle walls begins an unexpectedly long, and eventful, day for the Londoners.

The film’s writers, Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, felt “Rye Lane” needed to somehow open in an art gallery, the pair said in a recent interview. Bryon said that Black people — like Yas and Dom — are rarely shown in 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 of many ways the creators of “Rye Lane,” which opens in theaters in Britain on Friday and will come to Hulu in the United States on March 31, aim to tell a love story set in South London that feels true to their experiences, and their city.

“The story is really simple. It’s two people walking around, talking about their breakups,” said Raine Allen-Miller, the film’s director, in an interview. “They meet at the wrong time, but also the perfect time.”

Dom, who is heartbroken after his girlfriend left him for his best friend, is timid and openly emotional, which Jonsson particularly admires. “I love his vulnerability. I think that there’s something quite gorgeous about a young Black man being straight-up heartbroken,” Jonsson said in an interview. “I’ve been heartbroken, but would I have allowed myself to go into a restroom and cry my eyes out? Probably not.”

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