VOD film review: Sylvie’s Love
Ivan Radford | On 14, Feb 2022
Director: Eugene Ashe
Cast: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Aja Naomi King, Jemima Kirke
How many romantic movies have you seen where you genuinely want the lead couple to end up together? Sylvie’s Love, Amazon Studios’ simply delightful period romance, will have you swooning on your sofa, then writing strong letters to the online retailer demanding that Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) and Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) finally catch a break, in a story that seems determined to keep them apart.
The film whisks us back to the 1960s, where Sylvie is working in the record shop of her dad (the always-brilliant Lance Reddick) and dreaming of becoming a TV producer. Her dreams get a little more immediate when into the shop walks Robert, a saxophone playing who’s also looking to go places – and it’s not long before Sylvie is leaving behind her fiance (the son of a doctor) and falling head over heels for her cute new friend.
If that sounds like a meet-cute, you’re in for a quietly jaw-dropping surprise, as Ashe keeps the dial set firmly to melodrama, taking in every emotional beat with a sincere, serious face. And yet it’s also an understated affair, one that’s respectful and restrained, allowing the chemistry and connection to lure us into the romance without us even realising its happening.
It’s a beautifully filmed piece, unfolding on warm Super 16mm, and the lush visuals imbue a warmth to everything else. The costumes are gorgeous, the jazz music is gorgeous, the cast are gorgeous, and so the gorgeousness continues. Close-ups linger at just the right moment, while Thompson and Asomugha deliver turns worthy of classic Hollywood as their faces convey longing, excitement, passion and poignant regret.
They’re surrounded by an excellent supporting cast (including Jemima Kirke as “The Countess”, a benefactor of Robert’s band, Aja Naomi King as Sylvie’s moral cousin, Mona, and Regé-Jean Page as Robert’s suave bandmate, Chico) who manage to be rounded enough for the world to feel lived-in, but generous enough never to steal the show away from our central duo.
Not that there’s any risk of us taking our eyes off them, from their first kiss in an evocatively rainy street to their later meeting five years after they’ve been apart. One of the elements against them is their social standing – Sylvie is middle-class, while Robert is firmly blue collar – and there’s also an undercurrent of racial prejudice that undoubtedly soundtracks their lives. And yet all these things, too, come second fiddle to their open, passionate, sensitive bond. The Nearness of You plays out over the opening scene, setting the tone for a story that leaves you wanting them to stay as close to each other as possible – and us right along with them.