Sylvie’s Love Review

Five years after they fell in love in 1957, a chance encounter sees jazz musician Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) reconnect with aspiring TV producer Sylvie (Tessa Thompson). But will their new circumstances keep them from a second chance at a happily ever after?By Amon Warmann | Posted 23 Dec 2020A period drama with Black people at its centre is usually a guarantee that race and bigotry will be the dominant factors of the story. There is value in the If Beale Street Could Talk s and Selma s, of course, but it’s disheartening that there hasn’t been nearly as many movies set way back when that focus on Black characters pursuing love, happiness and career dreams. That’s a big reason why Sylvie’s Love — a charming sophomore effort from writer-director Eugene Ashe that puts the emphasis on a swoon-worthy romance to joyous effect — feels so refreshing.

"Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles." All the actors playing vampires were required to hang upside down for up to thirty minutes at a time during the make-up application. This would force all the blood in their bodies to rush to their heads, causing the blood vessels in their faces to bulge out. The make up artists would then trace over the swollen veins creating the eerie translucent-skinned vampire look. Unfortunately for the actors, they would have to repeat the process several times over, as the blood would quickly drain from their heads. This, in part, accounts for the lengthy make-up process.

The two star-crossed lovers in question are the titular Sylvie (Tessa Thompson ) and Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha, likeably understated), a reserved but brilliant saxophonist in a jazz quartet. The latter gets a job at the record store where Sylvie works just to be near her, and their shared musical passions give way to cute flirtations that quickly blossom into something more. That we’re rooting for the couple from the outset even though Sylvie is technically engaged (a fact she oft-repeats) is a sign of the easy chemistry Asomugha and Thompson share.

The Wallet in Pulp Fiction Was Quentin Tarantino’s. Jules’ wallet in Pulp Fiction that reads “Bad #&$&*@$” actually belonged to the director—who picked it up because of its reference to the 1971 film Shaft. As it happened, Samuel L. Jackson would go on to play the character that inspired the wallet in the 2000 remake of Shaft.

Sylvie’s Love would make for an excellent double bill with La La Land. Of all the obstacles placed in the relationship’s path, the push and pull between love and career is where Ashe’s screenplay finds the most potent drama, one of many reasons why Sylvie’s Love would make for an excellent double bill with La La Land . In what is a welcome bit of revisionism, the woman’s career is given just as much story importance as the man’s, which helps to reinforce the idea that the title doesn’t just refer to the men in Sylvie’s life, but to herself. The more she comes into her own, the more magnetic Thompson’s performance becomes.

"Blade Runner 2049." A visual effects company worked for a full year on the scene where Rachael (Sean Young) appears exactly as she did 35 years ago in Blade Runner (1982). Stand-in actress Loren Peta acted out the scene, and her appearance was changed through computer-generated visual effects to resemble Young.

She’s helped by some stunning costume design from Mad Men’s Phoenix Mellow, and similar can be said for Sylvie’s Love’s impressive aesthetics. In addition to being shot in lush 16mm, Mayne Berke Thompson’s production design has just the right amount of detail-oriented vintage, and the original jazz music written by Fabrice Lecomte meshes well with a soundtrack that includes Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas.

There are, though, some familiar criticisms of romance stories: not only is this a narrative with few surprises en route to its conclusion, but some of the turns the story takes are farfetched and far too coincidental. It all contributes to a running time that ends up feeling a little longer than it should.

"Schindler's List." To gather costumes for 20,000 extras, the costume designer took out advertisements seeking clothes. As economic conditions were poor in Poland, many people were eager to sell clothing they still owned from the 1930s and '40s.

But there’s much more about Sylvie’s Love that feels radical. Although the bigotry of the era isn’t completely absent from the proceedings — a dinner party sequence features the film’s lone microaggression, while the campaigning for Civil Rights is represented by Aja Naomi King’s underused Mona — this is a period movie that puts Black love first and foremost. There’s value in that, too. Combining beautiful aesthetics with winning performances from Thompson and Asomugha, Sylvie’s Love is the rare Black period drama that tells a sweet and satisfying love story without revolving around the racial adversity of the era.

Pet Rats Sold Big After Ratatouille. After the success of the 2007 film telling the story of the lovable, culinary-inspired vermin, kids everywhere asked their parents, “Can we get one? I promise I’ll take care of it.” At least one domestic pet chain saw sales of pet rats jump 50 percent after the movie’s release. We wonder how many of those rats immediately became parental responsibilities…

Movies:

  • Sylvie's Love

Actors:

  • Tessa Thompson
  • Nnamdi Asomugha
  • Aja Naomi King
  • Eugene Ashe
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