Sylvie’s Love is a charming period drama making its arrival on Amazon Prime after being selected for Sundance earlier this year.
The film starts out in the early 1960s before flashing back to 1957. Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) wants to work in television but for now, she’s spending her summer working at her dad’s record store. Meanwhile, her fiancé (in an arranged marriage) isn’t back from the war yet. Looking at the time period, this is probably the Korean War. Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) is a saxophonist and spends his time playing in a jazz quartet. He sees the Help Wanted sign up in the store window and the next thing you know, they bring him on for a part-time job. And thus, Sylvie and Robert start their romance because there would not be a film otherwise. Forbidden romance? You bet!
As is the case with any summer romance, life has a way of making other plans. A few years down the road, Sylvie and Robert cross paths again. Jazz is no longer the same with the rise of Motown. Regardless of where life has brought them over the last few years, Sylvie and Robert still have feelings for each other. For lovers of romance and jazz music, Sylvie’s Love will be right up your alley.
Writer/director Eugene Ashe also gets points for including a clip from I Love Lucy‘s “The Chocolate Factory” episode. The episode first aired in 1952 but based on the timeline, it was a rerun. If you’re going to include a timeless pop culture reference, you cannot go wrong with that clip! In a film that is otherwise full of drama, it’s nice to have some comedy even if it’s placed in the background. But even more than this, Ashe delivers a film that Hollywood simply doesn’t make anymore. Ashe also draws on his own life as a musician in informing Robert’s relationship with his own bandmates.
Phoenix Mellow’s costume design also helps bring the 1950s and 1960s to life on the screen. Tessa Thompson’s relationship with Chanel certainly doesn’t hurt either. Watching this film is like taking a time machine in terms of the fashion on display!
The easy decision here would be to shoot the film in New York. Instead, production designer Mayne Berke rebuilds both Harlem and the Bronx. The results are stupendous! It never ceases to amaze me how films can completely recreate a location on the backlots in Hollywood. And this comes from someone who has toured both Warner Bros. and Universal backlots.
The film could benefit from being trimmed a few minutes. Sure, it depends on the film but some two hour films feel longer when viewing at home. This is certainly one of those films. Thankfully, the press screener did not have any video lag like other times when connecting laptop to TV. I feel this is a story worth telling but I do wish that I saw it during Sundance in January. Unfortunately, getting sick at Sundance led to dropping a few films from my schedule. This, sadly, was one of them.
Don’t let Sylvie’s Love get lost in your winter viewing because the film is a charming romance tale worthy of your time.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Eugene Ashe
CAST: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Aja Naomi King, Jemima Kirke, Tone Bell, Alano Miller, Erica Gimpel, Lance Reddick with Wendi McLendon-Covey and Eva Longoria