Sylvie’s Love is a slow burn romance that takes you back to the classics of the golden age of Hollywood. The old-fashioned approach lavishes in the period-accurate fashion and music. The film is a sweet celebration of Black love and the true brilliance of Tessa Thompson’s charismatic presence.
Eugene Ashe wrote and directed a film that could easily fit into the era of romances made famous by the classic age of Hollywood. Impossibly beautiful people who fall madly in love and are meant to be, but are separated by one inconvenience or another. The tale is a simple one, but with the barrage of romances with a twist that has dominated our screens for the better half of the 20th century, it is a refreshing take and intoxicating to watch.
The story follows Sylvie (Tessa Thompson), a young woman who spends her days watching TV and listening to music while working at her father’s record shop. She isn’t entirely directionless, but her future isn’t too bright as she is engaged to be married to a man she isn’t crazy about. Then in walks saxophone player Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), who is immediately smitten with the slightly aloof but playful Sylvie. The two clearly have chemistry and would make for a great pairing, but certain factors stand in their way and ultimately separate them until they are fated to meet again. They spend a sultry summer together, while Sylvie’s cousin Mona Lisa (Aja Naomi King) and Robert’s fellow bandmate Chico (Regé-Jean Page) tag along.
Asomugha makes quite the impression as a somewhat newbie to the acting world. He blends well into the easy-breezy vibe that permeates the air in the mid to late 60s. As a saxophone player and a lover of jazz, Robert has a very soothing and assured presence. He has a timeless quality that fits neatly with the characters Sidney Poitier made famous in his heyday and has been replicated many times since by numerous great Black actors. Asomugha imbues Robert with a sensitivity that is not often seen in Black romantic leads, a tenderness that makes him impossible to ignore. It is that softness paired with Thompson’s robust portrayal of Sylvie that makes the two truly dazzle on screen.
However, the true beacon of the film is Tessa Thompson. Her radiance is unparalleled and she so beautifully captures the quiet passion that simmers beneath the polite veneer many women of this era had to maintain. Obviously ambitious and determined to make her own choices, Sylvie is the classic avatar for women who aim to please their families and loved ones, but always have an eye open to new opportunities. There is a sadness that follows as she must carry on pretending, but Thompson gives Sylvie a vibrant aura that never falls into a downright depressing heroine. It also goes without saying that Thompson’s look fits so perfectly for this era that she could easily be transported to the past and stand alongside the likes of Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge and Eartha Kitt. Sidenote: Thompson should totally play Eartha Kitt in a biopic, the people (me) demand it.
Sylvie’s Love is a delightful romance that will surely make you sigh and swoon as these two extremely attractive people inch closer and closer to the happy ending they deserve. It is also a triumph for Black cinema, in that this is a period drama that is not weighted down by the dark history that continues to plague us. It is a reprieve from the constant presence of our pain, and instead, it is a lavish production that celebrates the beauty of love and Black lives.
Sylvie’s Love is available to stream Prime Video December 23, 2020
by Ferdosa Abdi