Sylvie's Love (4 stars)

Sylvie's Love

Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha fall in love in this charming, 60s-set romance

Sweet as sugar, with ample soulfulness too, this pleasantly old-fangled romantic drama combines smart 60s style and star-crossed lover tropes with a handsome, predominantly Black cast and a more empowered outlook than would have been commonplace at the time. From writer-director Eugene Ashe, it acts as a lovely platform for the talents of actress Tessa Thompson, who brings plenty of sparkle to the titular role.

Opening in New York City, 1962, we meet Sylvie (Thompson) waiting for her cousin Mona (Aja Naomi King), who doesn't seem like she's gonna show. When Sylvie bumps into old flame Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), the film flips back to five years earlier to find her working in the record store of her father Mr Jay (an unusually avuncular Lance Reddick), daydreaming about becoming a successful TV producer, a career which seems off-limits to a woman of colour.

Sylvie and Robert's first encounter occurs when the latter secures a job in Mr Jay's store to supplement his income from playing the sax in an up-and-coming jazz quartet. Romance blossoms soon after, despite Sylvie already being engaged to someone from a prominent family – a match that was engineered by her elitist mother (Erica Gimpel), who runs a local finishing school. And with Robert about to head to Paris, the path to true love will not be smooth.

Former NFL pro Asomugha (who broke out as an actor in 2017's acclaimed Crown Heights) is subtly affecting as Robert, and him and the more overtly charismatic Thompson share genuine chemistry. Ashe goes through some fairly formulaic narrative motions, but in a way that's intended to be reassuringly familiar, and with its soft, immaculately designed aesthetic his film really looks the part, while commentary relating to the racial politics of the time never intrudes on the ultimate feel-good nature of the romance. Positioning itself at the opposite end of the spectrum to the gritty, issue-led filmmaking set in the era, but maintaining just enough credibility, Sylvie's Love is warm and comforting, like a cosy sweater on a cold day.

Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video now.

Sylvie's Love

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 54min
  • Directed by: Eugene Ashe
  • Cast: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Aja Naomi King, Eva Longoria