THE STORY – Sylvie has a summer romance with a saxophonist who takes a summer job at her father’s record store in Harlem. When they reconnect years later, they discover that their feelings for each other have not faded with the years.
THE CAST – Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Aja Naomi King & Eva Longoria
THE TEAM – Eugene Ashe (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 114 Minutes
By Nicole Ackman
As an audience member, it’s hard not to fall in love with Sylvie and Robert in Eugene Ashe’s “Sylvie’s Love” as we watch them fall for each other. This elegant, nostalgic film takes us back to the 1950s and 1960s in New York City for a sweet and tender romance, though not without complications. The character building is excellent, and it stands out for being a film about Black Americans in this time period that doesn’t revolve solely around the Civil Rights movement. It’s a wonderful film with a gorgeous design and splendid performances to watch with family over the holiday season.
“Sylvie’s Love” opens in 1957 with shy but determined Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) coming to New York City as his band tries to make it in the jazz scene. Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) is working in her father’s record store while her fiancé Lacy (Alano Miller), is in Korea. When Robert wanders into the record store and ends up with a job, the two become closer, much to the chagrin of Sylvie’s etiquette schoolteacher mother.
The characters are a significant part of what makes “Sylvie’s Love” so engaging. Thompson brings her customary charm to the role of Sylvie. From her love of “I Love Lucy” to her Audrey Hepburn inspired clothing and her ambition to work in television, she’s a fantastic female lead. Similarly, Asomugha’s Robert is very compelling as the tenor sax prodigy who wants to live his life to the fullest. It’s great to see a sensitive and emotional leading man in a period film like this.
The rest of the cast is also great, from Regé-Jean Page (soon to be seen in Netflix’s “Bridgerton”) as Robert’s bandmate Chico to Aja Naomi King as Sylvie’s vivacious cousin Mona. Lance Reddick stands out as Sylvie’s father, Herbert, a retired musician who shares a close bond with his daughter.
This sweet love story is unlike many movies set in this time period about Black Americans. It’s refreshing to see a story set in this era that explores a topic other than the Civil Rights movement or racism, though it doesn’t ignore their unique experience. The film moves from 1957 to 1962 and the screenplay does a great job at building the romance and taking us from one year to another, with certain lines echoing through it. Many lovely moments between the pair easily labels it one of the best love stories captured on film this year.
The film is impeccably designed, from the way it recreates this sumptuous, jazz-filled period in New York City to the costuming by Phoenix Mellow. The women’s costuming for Thompson, Eva Longoria as Carmen, and Jemima Kirke as the band’s manager are beautiful and do a great job at embodying both the 1950s and 1960s.
As soon as “Sylvie’s Love” premiered at Sundance in January, I couldn’t wait to see it. There are so many moments from this film that have stuck with me since I first watched it and it’s one that I’m so excited to rewatch and introduce my family to. It’s wholesome without being saccharine and an excellent vehicle for both Thompson and Asomugha, who have perfect chemistry together. A handsome period drama and a testament to following your heart, “Sylvie’s Love” is one of the best romance movies of the year.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – This gorgeous, charming, and nostalgic romance has a very talented cast with two leads who have excellent chemistry.
THE BAD – It’s a small story and the plot may be too simple to engage some.
THE OSCARS – None