Romantic dramas are often locked into more genre tropes than romantic comedies.
If it’s not a story about a widower finding love again then it’s a couple of young people with off-the-charts sparkage but is kept apart due to circumstances – war, class differences, parents or illness, usually.
They’re separated for a while but then find each other again after having lived a bit of their lives, and some but not all of these impediments are now out of the way.
So, with those kind of rigid storytelling structures, the strength of these movies falls so heavily to the performances because otherwise it’s not just another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, probably with a lake setting.
Luckily, Sylvie’s Love has a pair of charismatic stars whose on-screen chemistry may just be enough to make you swoon. In Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha, you’ll find two romantic leads you’re willing to root for – and that’s half the battle.
In the late-1950s, Sylvie (Thompson) is working at her father’s record store, though mostly to watch the TV in the shop because her mother (Erica Gimpel) won’t allow one at home. Glued to Lucille Ball stuffing chocolates in her mouth, it’s clear Sylvie loves TV and has aspirations to be part of that world.
Robert (Asomugha) is a gifted saxophonist who plays in a jazz quartet but takes a second job at the record shop. Sylvie and Robert bond over Sonny Rollins.
Despite their charged chemistry, there are obstacles – so many obstacles! She’s already engaged to someone else, they’re not the same “class” (he doesn’t even know what a cotillion is!) and his band might be going to Paris.
Five years later – and the film actually starts in 1962 before flashing back to when they first meet – a chance encounter re-sparks dormant but never disappeared feelings.
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Thompson has time and again proven her screen gravitas and while Asomugha’s filmography as an actor is less extensive the former NFL player more than holds his own.
They make a very attractive couple and writer and director Eugene Ashe smartly establishes that chemistry early on. Ashe also gives their characters world and passions outside of the main romance, which makes them much more rounded and relatable.
It also helps that every frame is a delight to look at, the vivid recreation of the 1950s and 1960s splashed with colour from Sylvie’s turquoise dress and daisy yellow sheets hanging on the line to the spiced pumpkins and emerald greens of the modernist production design.
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And of course the movie weaves music from that era into the soundtrack seamlessly.
There’s a likeable supporting cast filling out the film including Aja Naomi King as Sylvie’s cousin Mona, Ryan Michelle Bathe as Sylvie’s boss Kate, Jemima Kirke as the band’s manager and Eva Longoria.
Sylvie’s Love is a very classic romantic drama that doesn’t veer from the established path, nor does it try to be something else. Considering it ticks many of those boxes with assurance and style, there’s much to recommend it if you like a little flutter of the heart.
Sylvie’s Love will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from Wednesday, December 23
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