You’ve never seen a romantic comedy quite like Raine Allen-Miller's Rye Lane. Not only is the film oozing with style, passion, and authorial expressivity, but it also features two fantastic lead performances that confirm no other actors could have brought Yas and Dom to screen quite like Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson.
Yas and Dom are two 20-somethings living in South London who are both fresh out of relationships. While it may seem like an unlikely time for a new connection to start, Yas and Dom bump into each other at an art gallery and wind up spending the day together. On the surface, Yas and Dom are two wildly different people, but they prove to be the perfect partners for a journey of self-discovery while processing past heartbreak.
With Rye Lane celebrating its debut at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, Allen-Miller, Oparah, and Jonsson visited the Collider Studio presented by Saratoga Spring Water to discuss the evolution of the story from script to screen, the unique charm of these two characters, working on a set packed with ideal collaborators, and more.
If you’re looking for an example of a team of collaborators who elevate each other’s work at every turn, look no further than Rye Lane. Allen-Miller began by discussing the excitement of finding a script she felt she could bolster.
“When I got the script, it definitely felt like there was space to elevate it and bring my world building to the whole thing. So I would say that the script is so funny. It's so funny, but it's also really simple, and I think that gives you the opportunity to go kind of wild with the craft, and that's a huge part of what I do.”
Of course, the ability to do that is wholly dependent on assembling a team of creators who can bring every ounce of that story and Allen-Miller’s additional world-building to screen via their own talent and expertise. Allen-Miller noted, “Every little piece of what I make is kind of connected from the costumes to the color grades to the edit to the hair and makeup.” While discussing working with a significant amount of creators who were also making their feature debut with Rye Lane, she pointed out:
“I think creators always have their own worlds and that's done by working with people that are unique and have got a slightly different take on things. I was never that bothered about working with anyone that had masses of experience, specifically in feature films. A lot of the crew came from commercials, music videos, shorts. They're people that I've worked with all the time. They know exactly what I like, they know what I don't like, they know when I'm being a bit weird that it just means that I'm panicking, and they need to reassure me. There's a real shorthand there, which is amazing. And it was a joy to have that thing where it's all our first feature together. It was unique.”
Given his immense success in the role, it’ll likely come as a shock that Rye Lane is Jonsson’s feature debut. “I’m so grateful to Raine for having me.” Jonsson added, “I was able to learn so much about myself and how to navigate set, you know? I like to think that I'm good at tackling the mental of a character, but then you have to deal with some boom dangling in front of your face and all these kinds of things. So Raine giving us the opportunity to do that, it was everything.”
Jonsson also took a moment to highlight a few qualities of his character he was most eager to play:
“I'm always drawn to characters who aren't your regular guy or young black man. Even though I recognize him being from South London -- [he] supports Crystal Palace, I don’t support Crystal Palace, but he's a football guy. I recognize all that in him, but he’s also very strange. He gets it wrong quite a lot of the time, and I like that because it meant that he doesn't think the same way I do. I think I've got maybe a bit more game than him. [Laughs]”
Similarly, Oparah expressed enthusiasm for digging into a character with a different approach to life than her own:
“I personally would like to think I'm a very rational person in my personal life. Yas is entirely impulse and entirely devoted to living in a fantasy of her own design. And I was just really excited to occupy a character who — she's kind of like a whirlwind and she spins through everyone's life and she would just keep on, keep on, keep on spinning and she'll pick you up and she’ll spit you out if you don't agree with her fantasy, and I think that devotion to that and escapism was really, really fun.”
It’s not easy bringing such an impulsive character to screen while maintaining consistency, but Oparah found the anchor necessary to achieve that in Yas’ curiosity. She explained:
“I think the consistent truth that I found with Yas is that she has an endless curiosity for the world. If someone's doing something, it's like, why are they doing that? She's got to constantly challenge people, she’s gotta constantly push boundaries. And it's not because she's an antagonist. It's literally just curiosity. Obviously, that pushes too far. She doesn’t believe that she shouldn't be able to do anything because, to her, she can justify anything. But grounding it in a curiosity as opposed to something else was a way to stay kind of honest."
When watching Rye Lane, one might assume the specificity of the style and tone, and the eccentrics of the characters would demand maximum attention to detail and for an actor to be very deliberate in bringing certainly qualities and choices to screen, but both Jonsson and Oparah praised Allen-Miller’s emphasis on not overthinking and just being. Here’s how Jonsson put it:
“Something else I found interesting when I was finding [David] with Raine actually is I didn't need to do so much sometimes. Raine’s a master, in my opinion, at stripping things back. Even though it's a romantic comedy and there's so many layers to it, Raine’s just amazing at going, ‘No, you can just be there,’ and that was really, really awesome.”
Oparah also added:
“What I discovered in the playing of it is just not thinking too much and just being. And again, that's credit to Raine. In all the kind of mumbly messiness that would come out very naturally in speech, that's all adding to the character. Stuff that you’d be like, ‘Oh shit, I maybe shouldn’t have said it like that,’ or, ‘Was that even audible?’ [Laughs] Stuff like that was the flavor and the seasoning, which added to her.”
Looking for even more on Rye Lane from Allen-Miller, Oparah, and Jonsson? We’ve got just that for you in the full video interview at the top of this article!
Be sure to keep an eye out for Rye Lane, which is a Searchlight Pictures release due out on March 31, 2023.
Special thanks to our 2023 partners at Sundance including presenting partner Saratoga Spring Water and supporting partners Marbl Toronto, EMFACE, Sommsation, Hendrick’s Gin, Stella Artois, mou, and the all-electric vehicle, Fisker Ocean.