Written and Directed by Eugene Ashe
If there was an award for most beautiful looking film in this year’s competition, Sylvie’s Love would be a top contender. To look at this film is to fall in love with it. Set in New York and Detroit during the late 50’s and early 60’s, Phoenix Mellow, who did costumes, was an assistant costume designer on Mad Men. The colors are exquisite, like a Pedro Almodóvar movie. Mayne Berke did the production design and Declan Quinn was the cinematographer. Tessa Thompson, who plays Sylvie, looks like she walked out of a catalog.
Ashe’s script, however, sticks very close to the movie romance playbook that La La Land and Umbrellas of Cherbourg consulted (and which I also had problems with). Sylvie and Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) both work at her father’s record store. Sylvie’s engaged and shouldn’t be dating anyone, but she falls for the musician anyway. Theirs is the classic struggle between putting family or career first, yet in treating it as an either/or issue the film dates itself a lot.
While music is very important to Sylvie’s Love, it never goes full-blown musical, which seems a shame, and as much as it would’ve been great to see a film about Sylvie’s rise in the television industry or Robert’s career in Paris (a la Sidney Poitier in 1961’s Paris Blues), they’re only secondary storylines to the main romance.
Towards the end of the film Sylvie’s cousin, Mona (Aja Naomi King), calls Sylvie and Robert’s relationship “extraordinary.” I guess it depends on your definition but it’s not the word I would use.
Sylvie’s Love will be on Amazon Prime starting December 25th.
The 29th Philadelphia Film Fesitval runs from October 23rd to November 2nd. Click here for the full program.