“Sylvie’s Love” tells a story so cliched you can predict every beat.
The plot is simple. In the late 1950s, Sylvie works at her father’s record store in Harlem, where she meets Robert, an aspiring saxophone player. She’s attracted to him, but already engaged to Lacy, a soldier serving in Korea, so she can’t get involved with Robert. Except of course she can. The movie traces the highs and lows of their romance over six years.
Tessa Thompson is radiant as Sylvie, easily moving from strong to charming to vulnerable, particularly as she embarks on a career as a television producer. I liked the female empowerment aspect of Sylvie as a woman who wants her own profession, not a life as housewife supported by her husband.
I was wowed by Thompson in the under-seen “Little Woods” (which I named one of the Best Movies Of 2018, read my review here), and liked her in the “Creed” movies and “Westworld” TV series, but have been waiting for her to land the leading role she deserves (I’m not counting “Men In Black International,” because no one deserved that dreck).
As Robert, Nnamdi Asomugha (who spent 11 years as an all-pro cornerback in the NFL, mostly with the Raiders) is fine in his first leading role. But I wish writer/director Eugene Ashe had the courage to allow his saxophonist to have more than one scene in which we hear him playing a whole song. Other than that, the soundtrack is full of other people’s music, much of it pop, not jazz.
“Sylvie’s Love” is a movie that could easily have been made 60 years ago with Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll as the leads. The clothes, the vintage cars, and the people are all pretty, but they’re locked into a syrupy, formulaic plot that offers no surprises. There are lots of glossy shots of New York streets as they might have appeared on the screen in that era — but they look as if they were done on a studio backlot, the kind where Gene Kelly once splashed through puddles. The corny, stilted dialogue seems lifted from any standard romcom of the 1950s or 1960s.
That Ashe intended “Sylvie’s Love” to be just such a throwback doesn’t mean he’s made a good movie.
I give “Sylvie’s Love” a 3.5 out of 10. It is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.