Sylvie’s Love: Sumptuous period romance in the spirit of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Review: A loving homage to the lush Technicolor ‘woman’s pictures’ of yesteryear

Ashe negotiates a groundbreaking path for his determined, ambitious characters

Film Title: Sylvie's Love

Director: Eugene Ashe

Starring: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Regé-Jean Page, Aja Naomi King, Eva Longoria, Erica Gimpel

Genre: Romance

Running Time: 114 min

Thu, Dec 31, 2020, 05:00

   

There’s something of Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven and Carol in Eugene Ashe’s sumptuous period romance. A loving homage to the lush Technicolor “woman’s pictures” of Douglas Sirk, Sylvie’s Love is the kind of film that might, under that German director, have featured Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in the leading roles and Dorothy Malone as the temptress who tries to come between them. But where Todd Haynes leans on the 1950s as tragic and less enlightened times, Ashe negotiates a groundbreaking path for his determined, ambitious characters.

It’s 1957 in New York and Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) is holed up in her dad’s record store, watching television and dreaming of a career in TV production. Her fiance is abroad serving in the Korean war but that doesn’t stop sparks from flying the moment that aspiring saxophonist Bobby (Nnamdi Asomugha) walks up to the counter and asks for the newest record by Thelonious Monk. It helps that Sylvie is soon convinced that Bobby is the most gifted tenor sax player since John Coltrane. Their ensuing flirtation and eventual romance plays over six years, as various circumstances work to confer a starcrossed status upon the couple.

At the margins of that relationship, there are some lovely supporting turns from Erica Gimpel as Sylvie’s etiquette teacher mother, Jemima Kirke’s brassy English band manager, and Eva Longoria’s band leader wife. There’s even greater support from Phoenix Mellow’s delicious costuming, Declan Quinn’s lavish cinematography, and Mayne Berke Thompson’s vintage sound stage production design.

Sirk was socially conscious enough to make the compromised racial drama, Imitation of Life about a woman of colour who can pass for white. But I cannot think of another film in which a couple of colour blaze up the screen like Thompson and Asomugha do. Or indeed a film, which in keeping with the spirit of the Golden Age of Hollywood, makes such dreamy use of hairstyles.

See it and swoon.

Available on Amazon Prime Video