A lively and old fashioned take on the Boy Meets Girl genre.
Every time I read the title “Sylvie’s Love,” I think of another movie title called “Sophie’s Choice.” I know they’re different names and words, but to me, they sound alike. “Sylvie’s Love,” the one I’m reviewing, serves as a throwback to the classic romances of the 50s or 60s. In fact, this movie takes place during those time periods, and delivers a nifty connection between the two leads: Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha (the film’s producer).
A refreshing note: it cuts back on the negative racism (given that it’s a period African-American movie) and allows the characters to live their own lives with goals and ambitions, as well as a change of character. The premise of the movie takes its delicate steps, and while I don’t rad the supporting characters as much as the leads, it has plenty of high spirits and classic styles.
The story, set in Harlem, New York, begins in 1957. We meet Robert Holloway (Asomugha) the saxophone player from The Dickie Brewster Quartet, who applies for a part-time job helping out at a record shop run by a former musician (Lance Reddick) and his daughter Sylvie (Thompson with an Audrey Hepburn hairstyle). She’s engaged to a wealthy man named Lacy (Alano Miller), and despite their engagement, she and Robert hit it off.
That is until his band (Tone Bell plays Dickie) earns a manager-a white British aristocrat (Jemima Kirke)-who connects them with gigs in Paris. Sylvie wishes Robert the best of luck before he leaves without even telling him that she’s pregnant with his child.
5 years later in 1962, she’s married to Lacy with a little girl named Michelle, and earns a job as a production assistant for an African-American TV producer (Ryan Michelle Bathe), which would be very rare, given the time period. Sylvie dislikes her husband for his absent behavior, and is riveted to know that Robert is back in the Big Apple for more gigs. Eventually she works her way up to the big leagues, and earns the confidence to stop trying to become Lacy’s dream girl. She wants to live her own life, and that’s when they split up. Meanwhile, Robert tries to step up his game in the band and has fallen on hard times.
The supporting cast also includes Aja Naomi King as Sylvie’s civil rights activist cousin, John Magaro as the quartet’s new manager, Wendi McLendon-Covey as a cooking show host, Ron Funches as an old buddy of Robert’s who works at Motown Records, and Eva Longoria as Dickie’s wife. I wish I could have gotten more out of them, but the best of the bunch would be Reddick, who portrays Sylvie’s father on a timely and sentimental basis.
“Sylvie’s Love” transcends from one romance to the next, and treats it in the old-fashioned sense. Robert and Sylvie both have affairs, relationships, career opportunities, high points, low points, break-ups, and the meaning of them all; and Asomugha and Thompson both bring them to life in their own unique ways. Writer/director Eugene Ashe (“Homecoming”) delivers on the genre and style with a sense of love and affection, and he provides these vivid leads, who connect with each other, while having different goals at the same time.
Premieres on Amazon Prime This Friday