December 23rd, 2020
MOVIE: SYLVIE’S LOVE
STARRING: TESSA THOMPSON, NNAMDI ASOMUGHA, EVA LONGORIA, AJA NAOMI KING, JEMIMA KIRKE
DIRECTED BY: EUGENE ASHE
AMovieGuy’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
While watching Sylvie’s Love I couldn’t stop thinking about La La Land. The two films felt strangely connected. Both films are about two people falling in love, with the wedges of life dividing them, a jazz musician, a woman passionate about her career, gorgeous bright colors, and a romance that whisks us away. Eugene Ashe’s film is not a musical, but it certainly has me singing its praises, because it truly understands the characters, and tells a classic tale of love. Tessa Thompson stars as Sylvie and Nnamdi Asomugha as Robert, set in 1950’s Harlem, where a jazz saxophonist walks into a record store and falls in love with Sylvie. Making the love work is easier said than done, but as a film, Sylvie’s Love is sweet sweet music.
There are plenty of technical aspects to Sylvie’s Love that I will praise later, but what caught me off guard is the overflowing talents of Asomugha. The former Oakland Raider all-pro has made a seamless transition into acting and when you see him here, you may think as I do, that he has found his true calling. His performance as Robert is a mixture of quietly reserved, love struck, and conflicted within himself. He’s a musician first and wants to find success at doing what he loves. When he meets Sylvie, things change, for him and for his goals. He starts working part time at the record store, just to get close to Sylvie and hopes to impress Sylvie’s father Herbert (Lance Reddick). For Thompson it is more of the same, because she’s always excellent. The Thor: Ragnarok and Creed star is playing a role with more depth than typical throwback dramas being told about black people. This is not Hidden Figures or the antiquated feel we saw in a story like Green Book. Sylvie’s Love has a similar approach to The Photograph, where the courting process makes you feel good, but now we see it back in time
The direction and screenplay by Eugene Ashe is impressive, especially considering the circumstances. His directorial debut- Homecoming, was a low-budget New York film, but this looks nothing like a sophomore effort. The production design is exceptional, with highly detailed sets, gorgeous costumes, and cinematography that captures colors of green, tan, and brown like a crisp autumn sunset. It helps when you have attractive actors to capture in these settings, but Ashe is not afraid to pull the camera away and let the love of Robert and Sylvie unfold from afar.
Another important dynamic about Sylvie’s Love is how pure of a romance this is. It may not have the swelling moments such as Brooklyn, or the flighty dreams of La La Land, but it is more honest with love. It also makes the situation for black communities during the 1950’s the reality, a part of what Sylvie is fighting constantly, both to earn respect as a working woman and in her independence. For Robert he is fighting to prove his talents when he should not have to, clearly an excellent musician, but also fighting the masculine struggle of being someone that can provide for his wife, while still being the free artist that he is.
At its weakest, Sylvie’s Love may be a movie that feels familiar to other love stories you have seen before, but at it’s best, it will fill your heart with joy. The performances from Asomugha is a revelation, something that should lead to bigger roles. Tessa Thompson proves that she is gorgeous, both inside and out, playing the title role without pulling her punches. I am always reminded of that famous line, “it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”, that fits perfectly with Sylvie’s Love because we are better to have Sylvie’s Love in our lives.
SYLVIE’S LOVE PREMIERES ON AMAZON PRIME DECEMBER 23rd
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady