Reel Reviews | Sylvie’s Love

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

Nnamdi Asomugha and Tessa Thompson attempt to create a vision of black love rarely seen in the throwback, Sylvie’s Love.

The prim and proper (and engaged) Sylvie (Thompson) works in her father’s record store partly to help but mostly to get her fill of television viewing. One day, up-and-coming jazz saxophonist, Robert (Asomugha) comes into the store partly looking for work but mostly looking to get to know the captivating woman he sees through the window.

Sylvie’s Love stars Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha with Lance Reddick, Eva Longoria, Aja Naomi King, Erica Gimpel, and MC Lyte. Written and directed by Eugene Ashe (Homecoming), Love is the second feature film and the first narrative film by the former music artist. Set in the late 1950s, Ashe delves into his love for music to create a film that not only respects true love but pays homage to the soundtrack of the wide diaspora of black American music of that time from jazz to lounge music and pop.

This movie has your typical love story outline; boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy has to leave girl, but boy comes back to girl. However, with any movie, it is not always the story outline but the details and execution that make or break a movie. The details in this movie are intriguing, intelligent, and empowering. The outline is flipped here where it is girl meets boy, girl falls for boy, etc. In breaking the mold a little, Ashe crafts a story in which the viewer more than once has to wonder who or what is Sylvie’s love is. As we follow Sylvie, there are heartbreaks and tear jerks, joy and pain, and failure and triumph. The story is incredibly smart with just the right amount of sappiness to make it a fetchingly romantic journey.

Everything is right about this movie. The chemistry between Thompson and Asomugha. The stylish clothes. The set design. (Did I mention the soundtrack?) Asomugha is even convincing as a saxophonist. Either the ex-NFL cornerback played the instrument before or had a very good direction in how to hold and play it. Either way, it is impressive.

The most impressive thing about the movie is how authentically it portrays love. It is truthful and uncompromising in its depiction. It is not constrained within the boundaries of a typical fictionalized urban love tale but rises to a level of authenticity that rivals any classic love story, regardless of race. That being said, this film immediately launches itself into the pantheon of great black love stories combining the grittiness of a Claudine and the elegance of Mahogany and Lady Sings the Blues. Despite its formulaic outline, it carries a freshness in its performance that makes it feel original.

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and smoking, Sylvie’s Love is an excellent love story that may feel a little out of place at Christmas time but will make a delightful and rewarding holiday gift for your loved one.

Grade: B+

Check out Tim Gordon’s Reel Review, below: