director: Eugene Ashe (Homecoming)
starring: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Aja Naomi King and Jemima Kirke
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A woman working at her father's record store in Harlem in the late 1950s meets an aspiring saxophone player.
After the ride of 2020 we need to be transported away and there’s no better film to do that than Sylvie’s Love. Brimming with romance and filled with stunning production design, Sylvie’s Love is a love story that is rarely told in its sweetest but also the people who inhabit it.
Writer Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), a saxophonist, spends late nights playing behind a less-talented but well-known bandleader, as member of a jazz quartet. Sylvie (Tessa Thompson), who dreams of a career in television, spends her summer days helping around her father’s record store, as she waits for her fiancé to return from war. When Robert takes a part-time job at the record store, the two begin a friendship that sparks a deep passion in each of them unlike anything they have felt before.
As the summer winds down, life takes them in different directions, bringing their relationship to an end. Years pass, Sylvie’s career as a TV producer blossoms, while Robert has to come to terms with what the age of Motown is doing to the popularity of Jazz. In a chance meeting, Sylvie and Robert cross paths again, only to find that while their lives have changed, their feelings for each other remain the same.
Sylvie’s Love isn’t some kinda mind bending thriller, gritty drama or mind puzzling mystery. It’s a period romance pure and simple. And while the narrative is undemanding and slightly predictable it completely works. There is a sweetness, innocence and nostalgia to it which will lighten even the most downtrodden spirit. The production design is understandably lavish for the era it's set in with stunning costumes, a soulful soundtrack all beautifully captured on 16mm film that doesn’t feel super sharp and sanitized but slightly grainy and real.
Although the film’s title may suggest that this is a film about all the men that occupy Sylvie’s life the film focuses on all of her loves from music, television and also her career. As with Crazy Rich Asians, Sylvie’s Love is a film about a group of people underrepresented not only in film but in these kind of films. And as with Crazy Rich Asians it doesn’t feel forced or tokenism, but real, authentic and perfectly normal. It feels revolutionary. It truly is beautiful.
At the centre of the film is the romance between Tessa Thompson’s Sylvie and Nnamdi Asomugha’s Robert and their chemistry is electric. Thompson portrayal grows and blossoms throughout the film and she gives one of her most tender and powerful performances of her career.
Brimming with romance and filled with stunning production design, Sylvie’s Love is a love story that is rarely told in its sweetest but also the people who inhabit it.