Sylvie’s Love has been teased on Amazon Prime for a few months now and I couldn’t wait. A story set in the fifties, in the midst of Harlem and the jazz scene, with an incredible cast led by Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha, this was a film that was irresistible. Now that I’ve watched the movie, I can say that Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are both magnetic in this film, the music is absolutely beautiful and this is one of the best love stories I’ve ever watched.
Written, directed, and produced by Eugene Ash, Sylvie’s Love stars Tessa Thompson as Sylvie Parker, a young woman living in Harlem. One day she’s working in her father’s record store and she connects with saxophonist Robert Halloway (Nnamdi Asomugha) who takes a day job in her father’s store. Even though Sylvie is engaged, the two develop feelings for each other. Events drive them apart but years later, they reconnect, only to find out that their feelings for each other haven’t faded. But with the complications of Sylvie’s marriage and her career with Bobby’s music being his passion, will the pair find a way to be together or be driven apart forever?
Normally, I’d start with the story and plot but this movie’s strongest element is the music. Not only does each musical piece highlight the film and the time period, but the music alone makes the film worth watching. When Bobby’s band is playing, the music is lush, rich, and beautiful. The pieces are sublime in their emotion and heavenly in tone. If you love jazz, this showcases all the ways jazz is far from dead, despite the rise of other genres. And not only does the movie enchant with the musical numbers but it also details the music business with the many ups and downs that happened in the fifties and sixties.
The story is simple. It is the story of star crossed lovers, the tension and drama driven by the intensity of emotion and chemistry between Sylvie and Robert despite the disparity in their stations and her commitment to another man. It also explores the idea that life is too short to not pursue your passions, what you love. And the story thoughtfully explores what truly makes Sylvie happy, what she loves. She is willing to walk away from Robert because she doesn’t want to make him choose her over his music and yet, ultimately, he is willing to do the same. And while not a complex idea, what makes the film brilliant is how well the writing depicts that level of love and emotion, the intensity between Sylvie and Bobby and how fiercely Sylvie fights for the things she is passionate about.
With the story being set in the fifties, the narrative does equal justice to the time period as the main drama between Sylvie and Bobby. There are subtle details woven into the story from the music depicted in the film to the racial tensions between a white couple that interacts with Sylvie and her husband, Lacy. The writing depicts the music business perfectly while giving us Sylvie as a rarity, a woman producer in the sixties. And while Sylvie has a marriage and career, Mona, her cousin, fights for justice in marches and in Washington in the protests that occurred during that time. From the dresses to the vehicles, every detail of the time is well thought out and beautifully depicted.
This cast is just brilliant. Each actor in this film does beautifully, not just Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha. But the pair do lead the way as the primary actors. Their chemistry is intense and undeniable. They sizzle and pop when they are on screen together and that dynamic is perfect for this film, where the love story is an integral part of the drama. Tessa is charming, intelligent, and emotional as Sylvie while Nnamdi is intense and talented in his depiction of Bobby. Lance Reddick plays his part well as Sylvie’s father, Mr. Jay, portraying his character as wise and knowledgeable. Aja Naomi King as Mona, Sylvie’s cousin has a rich relationship and the rapport between her and Tessa is authentic, as they trade songs whenever they meet or talk, sharing every detail between the characters. As Lacy, Sylvie’s husband, Alano Miller has a subtler but equally capable performance and power. I cannot detail every actor but everyone in this film is skilled and performs their part with energy and passion.
If you like rich, gorgeous dramas set in one of the most intense time periods of the twentieth century, then this should be perfect. Every performance is pitch-perfect and Tessa Thompson shines in her performance as Sylvie. Nnamdi Asomugha is intense and emotional, is a match for Tessa, and the love between their characters is real and beautiful. This is a magnificent movie, from the music to every detail of the story. If there is one movie I recommend streaming this weekend, Sylvie’s Love would be the one I would watch.