Written by: Eugene Ashe
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha. Ryan Michelle Bathe, Aja Naomi King, Eva Longoria
Sometimes we cannot help those we choose to love, whether it be a connection like no other or a passion never losing its fire. That kind of love comes rarely and it becomes tempting to never let it go as occurs in the wonderfully luscious Sylvie’s Love. Unafraid of its elegance and led by a wonderful duo of performances, this film transports the audience to a different era where love could conquer all.
Engaged to a man serving overseas, Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) strikes up a friendship and eventual sexual relationship with jazz musician Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha). With differing trajectories in their lives, they reconnect years later meeting at different points of the goals they want to achieve.
Through the process of watching this film, I had an inclination that I recognized the person portraying Robert in this story. Weirdly, he reminded me of former NFL cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, but I figured there’s no way it’s the same person. Lo and behold, after researching Sylvie’s Love afterward, my initial guess was correct, which came as a pleasant surprise, especially because Asomugha truly impressed in creating this swoon-worthy character. Just as the title indicates, everything in this story hinges on the love interests presented to Sylvie and who she decides to take on as a lover. The factors into her decision-making matter more than just what the heart wants, which allows Sylvie to shine as a character overall and makes this a love story worth seeking out.
The initial meeting between Sylvie and Robert comes from the latter applying to work at the record store of the former’s father. She spends her days there just trying to watch television, but they strike an emotional connection neither of them would have expected. As a jazz musician of exquisite talent, Robert seemingly has the world at his fingertips with success on the horizon, but something keeps pulling him towards the records shop and interacting with Sylvie. The titular character has more to her than meets the eye, as her career aspirations are far larger than anyone gives her credit for, which makes her love of television all the more important. Their ability to support each other’s passion brings them together and ultimately what keeps them attached as life gets in the way.
Set back in the roaring era of jazz’s apex, the production and costume design exquisitely transports the audience back to a time where Robert could become as famous as John Coltrane and the saxophone could be used as an instrument of seduction. The score combines with these technical elements to show both the good and the bad of this era where it became easy to fall in love but difficult for two strong-minded individuals to meet in the middle of societal standards. Sylvie proves to be an outlier with this thinking and her personal struggle throughout maintains a level of interest because it goes against the grain of what becomes expected of her by family members and society as a whole.
At the center of it, all the loveliness ever-flowing through this story can be pinpointed by the graceful performances of Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha, as they create a tremendously delicate but enchanting bond between these two characters. Their connection never feels forced or contrived, because what bonds them gets established early and solidifies itself throughout the story, which makes the cases where they reunite completely believable. As time passes, Robert becomes a memory for Sylvie, but one she cannot help think of every day in her lingering thoughts. Thompson wonderfully carries the film in that regard, as she does well in establishing this strong and female character full of her own wishes and dreams to accomplish. Thompson takes the delightful script and direction of Eugene Ashe to an exquisite level to create an ever-engaging person to follow.
Accepting its melodrama but inherent beauty, Sylvie’s Love can serve as a remedy for the wintertime blues with the emanating warmth flowing through the story and the performances by its two leads. Lovely in its narrative but also moving with the emotional journey Sylvie must go on from being a television-obsessed young woman into the autonomous decision-maker she later becomes. A film anyone can sit back and enjoy to get lost in a different era of New York and a time where jazz music dominated the popular interest and united this lovely couple.