If you need a happy ending movie to set the tone for 2021...
SYLVIE'S LOVE (2020)
A love story involving jazz where the main characters actually end up together? La La Land could never.
Writer and director Eugene Ashe’s new romance is an aesthetically pleasing time capsule. For better or worse, this movie is just cliche beat after cliche beat that never dares to endanger the plotline. I did stumble upon a few plot holes in my viewing, some that could have been explained with just a bit more context. But with the film being such a lighthearted romp, I can only assume I’m not meant to worry about it. Sylvie’s Love is as cut and dry as it gets. There’s some dramatic moments but I wouldn’t call it a drama. It’s lighthearted, but definitely not a rom-com. It’s a simple story centered around a man and woman’s relationship, and I can’t help but be reminded of the cute little cheesy romance novels that my mom loves to read.
Sylvie works at her father’s record shop in 1950s Harlem, when handsome Robert stumbles upon the shop and gets hired on the spot. There is some romantic tension between the two at first, but there’s a problem; Sylvie’s engaged. The two run into each other later on in life and realize the spark never left.
It's a rather simple tale about two people’s love that could have been and their attempts to make up for it years later. The beats are all familiar, but I found myself asking several questions that the movie just didn’t seem interested in answering. Sylvie’s Love seems to favor forward momentum and instant gratification over exploring themes with more narrative conflict. The film has a hard time honing in on its dramatic moments, and in turn it feels like there are no stakes.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Tessa Thompson was the main reason I was excited to see this, and in terms of her performance alone I was not disappointed. I really loved Sylvie's passion for her career and to do what's best for her. Nnamdi Asomugha as Robert is so suave and brilliantly charming. Both actors do a great job of staying true to their characters even as they age and mature, keeping their motivations believable.
However, it's hard for me to believe the couple's chemistry later on in the story. In the first act, yes, but for the rest of the film I can't see past how it’s a toxic relationship disguised as a once in a lifetime romance.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
This film entraps you in the 1960s in a very hazy glow that feels like you’re walking through a dream. Captured on 16mm film, the mid century modern set designs and costumes are decadent. For someone like me who is really into that decade’s styles and trends, visual stimulation is through the roof. In fact, in matching with the story, the set design is truly classic. Truthfully, I wish it was mandatory for all modern period pieces to be shot on film, because it gives the entire essence of the movie that little chef’s kiss that it deserves.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score goes hand in hand with the production design to whisk you away into another time. From diegetic jazz performances, to non diegetic montages set to vintage bops. Its classic and gorgeous cinematic melodies will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. The whole thing just feels like an old vinyl record. I feel as if I could live in this movie, and the dedication to the time period really contributes to a living, breathing world.
Sylvie’s Love sets its bar so low that it's satisfying when it clears that bar. It gives you such low expectations that you’re just happy when it follows through with it. It’s so simple and predictable that it can’t fail. But sometimes, that’s all that you need. Even if Sylvie’s Love didn’t completely satisfy this critic, it might be just the thing a lot of audiences are looking for. If you need a happy ending movie to set the tone for 2021, Sylvie’s Love is set to drop on Amazon Prime on December 23rd.