I am a complete sucker for throwback romance films and SYLVIE’S LOVE is just the kind of movie I have been yearning for this year. I am so glad I was able to catch it virtually at the Middleburg Film Festival! Director Eugene Ashe builds the perfect 1950s/1960s atmosphere in Harlem, with dazzling (and well-researched) costumes and set design and a killer soundtrack that immediately transports audiences to that time period. And don’t even get me started on the red-hot chemistry between Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha, which permeates throughout the film… even the moments when our lead characters are separated.
SYLVIE’S LOVE is a movie of its own, but if I had to describe some similar films, I would say it reminds me of a mixture between THE WAY WE WERE, BROOKLYN, and LA LA LAND. Unfortunately, Hollywood’s production of dramatic romance films has dipped drastically over the years, and films led by a non-white cast are almost non-existent. Don’t the powers that be understand LOVE AND BASKETBALL is one of the best romance films of all time? There is clearly an audience for movies like this and I am glad we have SYVLIE’S LOVE to look forward to, especially during the Christmas season!
A will they, won’t they romance film for the ages, the story follows Sylvie (Thompson), an independent TV and music loving woman who wants to make a name for herself on the silver screen, a seemingly unattainable career choice for a Black woman at that time. While working in her father’s record store and waiting for her fiancé to return from the Korean War, she meets Robert (Asomugha), a handsome saxophonist that is looking for a part-time job (mostly because he noticed the beautiful Sylvie through the store window). Robert’s dream is to become a successful jazz musician and it doesn’t take long before the opportunities come knocking.
What starts as a summer love story inevitably spans years of the characters lives as they come together and grow apart due to burgeoning careers and life experiences. And these are the kinds of relationships I start rooting for from the beginning. Each time Thompson has a romance on-screen, I think there can’t possibly be another actor that she has as much chemistry with (I’m thinking particularly about the CREED franchise), but her chemistry with Asomugha *almost* gives Michael B. Jordan a run for his money. Almost. But let’s be real, nothing is better than CREED’s Adonis and Bianca.
Speaking of Tessa Thompson, she can do no wrong. Period. She is one of the most versatile actors working today, with the ability to transcend time periods and film genres. And did I mention she makes it look effortless? Thompson has such a presence on screen and that is perfect for bringing Sylvie to life, demonstrating that women of that time period can be career-driven and know what they want out of life and their relationships. She continuously proves that she can make it on her own despite the abhorrent racism and sexism she encounters on a daily basis.
SYLVIE’S LOVE is a charming throwback romance, a genre I hope we get to see more of over the next few years. The gorgeous cinematography, score, and soundtrack were so spot-on, it’s almost as if the characters (Sylvie and Robert) were responsible for making the film themselves. Releasing on Christmas Day, this is the perfect escapist movie to transport us from our COVID quarantine bubble, if only for the 120 minute runtime.
My review: B