Sylvie’s Love REVIEW – An Extraordinary Romance

Director/writer Eugene Ashe delivers an oh-so beautiful love story for his sophomore film.

Sylvie's Love
Sylvie's Love

“How was it?” Sylvie’s cousin Mona (Aja Naomi King) asks, as the two sunbathe on a rooftop. Sylvie’s (Tessa Thompson) face takes on a dreamy look, before proclaiming her romantic night with Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) as an “extraordinary” one. And we believe her. The love story between Sylvie and Robert is the essence of the film, and director/writer Eugene Ashe sells this to us quietly and oh-so beautifully.

Robert plays the saxophone in a jazz band, and Sylvie is helping out at her father’s record store while her fiance is away. A happenstance moment brings the two together – Robert catches sight of her from the window, and from then on, we know the man is smitten. Sylvie is the more restrained one, since she is engaged and shouldn’t be feeling what she’s feeling in Robert’s presence. They engage in long conversations about music, their individual dreams – all this inevitably leads to a strong desire for physical intimacy. We see Sylvie’s struggle every step of the way, but she can’t help herself, drawn to Robert just as much as he is to her.

This reminded me a little of The Notebook, because Sylvie and Robert are separated by class differences, and there is also a time leap, so we see the love story at its beginning, and we continue Sylvie and Robert’s story five years later. It doesn’t tread new ground in the space of romance, but you see, it doesn’t have to. A good romance just has to give us credible love interests, and actors able to craft chemistry with their co-stars.

While The Notebook had make-outs in torrential downpours and hyperbolic displays of passion, Sylvie’s Love is all about the slow burn, the pair always so aware and eager for each other, even though it’s still forbidden all these years later. Ashe paints for us an image of selfless love, where neither wants to hold the other back, keeping secrets because they feel it’s in the other’s best interest. It’s frustrating for us, as we scream at the screen for them to just be honest with each other, that love doesn’t have to come at the cost of our dreams.

It is to the movie’s credit that it doesn’t make Lacy (Alano Miller), Sylvie’s fiance, a despicable man for the convenience of the plot. He may be old-fashioned in his views at times, but he does love her, even if he cannot see her beyond the image he has of her in his head. The title of the film isn’t just a reference to Sylvie’s love story with Robert, it’s also about her love for herself. She placed Robert’s dreams and her family’s interests over her own, and it is only when she exercises her will and agency, that she is free to love Robert on her own terms.

It is truly a beautiful love story, and the soundscape, which is comprised of music from that era, elevates the storytelling and adds to the swirls of romance. It also complements the look and atmosphere of the film, and I truly felt like I was in the late 50s. Sylvie’s Love joins the ranks of romances like John Crowley’s Brooklyn and Todd Haynes’ Carol, where we bear witness to the highs and lows of courtship. We watch two people fall in love and encounter obstacles along the way, waiting for the wonderful aftermath of love conquering all. People scoff at romance films, and even though the genre is as straightforward as they come, all the elements still need to come together to give us something credible. The moments before the fall are as important as everything that happens after – Ashe delivers all that and more.

Review screener provided.

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Sylvie's Love
Director/writer Eugene Ashe builds for us an authentic love story with Sylvie's Love, enveloping us in the charms of falling in love, crafting sweet moments of anticipation - it is saccharine stuff, and I gobbled it all up.