David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah in "Rye Lane." The film opens in Britain on Friday and premieres on Hulu on March 31. Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
PHILADELPHIA, March 17 (UPI) -- In Rye Lane, Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah) navigate the tricky dynamics of relationships to humorous effect after an unexpected meeting in a South London bathroom.
Both characters are jilted lovers looking for a connection that contending with their respective life challenges makes more difficult.
As the two spend a day together learning each other's idiosyncrasies, attraction is sparked. Their misadventures take them through the Peckham section of London, one of the city's Black enclaves providing a fresh view of a city usually depicted very differently.
Directed by Raine Allen-Miller, a new talent in British film, Rye Lane generated positive buzz at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was met with glowing reviews.
In a recent video interview with UPI, Oparah said director Allen-Miller's London is one most familiar to the city's residents.
"If you come to London, the London that you've seen in the film is probably the most realistic portrayal," Oparah said. "You know, you'll be having like a very normal, maybe very serious conversation, but in your periphery, there's madness going on.
"There's a cowboy moonwalking. There's a crackhead singing the most beautiful melody you've ever heard in your life. That is London. And Raine is so wonderfully curious about the world around her, and it's amazing how she distilled that curiosity into the world that she created in the film."
Like Allen-Miller, Oparah is new to the entertainment world. Her most visible credit so far is on the British series Then You Run, where she plays Stink. She said she wanted to play Yas immediately.
"I fell in love with the script," she said. "I was laughing a lot. It was very funny. And then, yes, I was like, 'Who is this woman?' She's just unapologetically messy, chaotic, impulsive, curious. I was like, 'Girl, you need to chill out.' But I was like, 'What is the emotional reality behind this crazy behavior?' And I wanted to find it."
Jonsson, best known for his role as Gus Sackey on the HBO show Industry, will soon be even more visible as he's been tapped to appear in the latest Alien movie and just signed with CAA. He said in the interview that playing a character like Dom gave him the opportunity to show another side of his skill set.
"I got sent it amongst a bunch of scripts I was going through at the time. And I guess coming off the back of what I've done before, I really wanted to do something different," he said. "Sometimes you can get the same things through because people have seen me do something relatively well. And they go 'right, here you go.' And as an actor, I want to break that."
Allen-Miller's unique vision meets Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia's script by showcasing the secondary characters inhabiting Dom and Yas' world in all their eccentric glory. Oparah said it made her work harder to match the commitment the actors made to even the smallest speaking parts.
"It was insane," she said. "It was so hard to focus on your job because you wanted to watch. ... But also, you came to work every day like, 'I need to bring my A game because everyone turns up here so ready to go.' Creatively, it was like a feast. I was so inspired and made me work 20 times harder."
Rye Lane occupies a corner of British cinema bereft of similar fare. A predominantly Black cast with a Black director and a Black love story central to the narrative isn't something that viewers see often. Telling a Black-centered story devoid of tragic storylines (unless you include the characters' love lives) is something both actors say they enjoyed being a part of.
"All sides of the Black experience are valid, but we're not a monolith," Oparah said. "And there are a number of things that we experience, which might be more traumatic, might be more intense, but also, there's magic in the mundanity of our everyday lives. We meet people in toilets, we fall in love with them."
She concluded: "But sometimes, the joy and the simplicity in those stories are just as valid as the trauma and the harrowing nature of other stories. So I feel like everything should be told, and I'm team more of everything, more of all of our stories. And it's a blessing to be able to tell a joyful one."
Rye Lane opens in British theaters on Friday and premieres on Hulu on March 31.