Sylvie’s Love movie review: Amazon melodrama might be too old-fashioned for some.
Sylvie’s Love movie review: Amazon melodrama might be too old-fashioned for some.

Sylvie’s Love movie review: New Amazon melodrama mines La La Land magic, might be too old-fashioned

Sylvie’s Love movie review: The new Amazon melodrama has visual splendour to spare, but it might be too old-fashioned in its gender politics to appeal to contemporary audiences.
By Rohan Naahar | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON DEC 24, 2020 11:43 AM IST

Sylvie’s Love
Director - Eugene Ashe
Cast - Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Aja Naomi King, Eva Longoria, Lance Reddick, Jemima Kirke

Sylvie’s Love, the new romantic melodrama on Amazon Prime Video, opens with a luxurious title sequence — the sort of title sequence that immediately evokes memories of a very particular era in moviemaking. Every actor is given an individual card, with the names of their characters displayed in bold yellow font, as if they are all playing notable historical figures.

Filmmakers these days underestimate the power of a good title sequence. It’s a dying art. One of the stealth services that it offers, among others, is to immediately convey the tone of the film, and lure the audience in even before the story has begun. The opening title sequence in Sylvie’s Love, which tips its hat to the 60s, does both these things.

Watch the Sylvie’s Love trailer here

 

But once our attentions have been attracted and the film’s retro tone advertised, Sylvie’s Love finds itself so wrapped up in its stylistic shenanigans that it often forgets about simple matters such as character development. Not only does it visually evoke a bygone era in filmmaking — it’s shot on grainy, 16 mm film — it also follows, a tad too religiously, the storytelling style of classic Hollywood romances. And it does this, unlike La La Land or the recent Mank, without putting a contemporary spin on the material.

Directed by Eugene Ashe, the splashy Sundance film is similar to Damien Chazelle’s masterpiece in many ways. But it also addresses some of the criticisms that were directed at that musical.

Like La La Land, it tells the star-crossed love story of an up-and-coming jazz musician and a young woman who aspires to work in the entertainment industry. They meet at her father’s record store, where he finds a day job. In the evenings, he plays the saxophone with his band at the local jazz clubs. But this time, critically, both protagonists are Black.

Tessa Thompson plays Sylvie, who one day dreams of running her own television show, but doesn’t know if she’ll be allowed to. She is at a disadvantage, both racially and because of her gender. But Robert, on the other hand, is operating in a world dominated by Black men. This brings its own unique challenges.

Sparks fly as the bond over the latest Miles Davis album and sneak quick conversations under the nose of Sylvie’s father. Before you know it, Robert’s asking her to come watch him play. But true to its nature as an old-school melodrama, the film puts its protagonists through their paces with a series of contrived setbacks, the first of which is Sylvie’s impending marriage.

Nnamdi Asomugha, left, and Tessa Thompson appear in a scene from Sylvies Love. (AP)
Nnamdi Asomugha, left, and Tessa Thompson appear in a scene from Sylvies Love. (AP)

The film offers a refreshing perspective into the internal class structures of the Black community. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to describe it as a fairytale. Sylvie is, in many ways, a princess in waiting — a prominent member of the community, her future carefully mapped out for her. She can’t be messing around with an Aladdin-like street rat.

And like an old Disney film, there are a few ethical concerns you might have with certain events. For instance, by getting involved with Robert, Sylvie is, after all, cheating on her fiance. And when, in setback number two, Robert gets an offer to go to Paris with his band, not once does it cross his mind to stay back to be with her. Instead, he puts her under pressure when he says ‘we’re all that matters’ and asks her to come with him.

As it turns out, the film’s gender politics are stuck in the past, too. And that’s the main problem with it. It’s too beholden to outdated narrative devices to appeal in any sort of way to a discerning contemporary audience. It’s all very cute when characters say stuff like “Charmed, I’m sure,” and “May I have the pleasure of this dance?” in casual conversation, but the sight of an independent woman chasing a man who turned his back on her is not something that’s easy to wrap your head around.

That being said, one shouldn’t overlook its contributions to Black cinema. Along with Pixar’s Soul and the tremendous Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Sylvie’s Love is the third film this month to highlight the artistic achievements of the underrepresented culture. Watch it as a part of a warm Christmassy triple-bill, perhaps?

Follow @htshowbiz for more
The author tweets @RohanNaahar

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Priyanka Chopra has shot for a new episode of Hot Ones.
Priyanka Chopra has shot for a new episode of Hot Ones.

Priyanka Chopra paces around with milk in hand after shooting another Hot Ones

PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 02:20 PM IST
Priyanka Chopra has shot for yet another episode of Hot Ones where celebrities are made to gulp down spicy sauces, to test their tolerance for hot food.
Close
Armie Hammer arrives at the Oscars 2018.(Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Armie Hammer arrives at the Oscars 2018.(Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Armie Hammer contacted by cops after posting disturbing video on private account

PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:44 PM IST
  • Actor Armie Hammer was contacted by the Cayman Islands police after they received a complaint about a video he posted on a private Instagram account. The video showed a woman posing on all-fours in a hotel room.
Close
The White Tiger movie review: Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao in a still from the new Ramin Bahrani film.
The White Tiger movie review: Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao in a still from the new Ramin Bahrani film.

The White Tiger review: Adarsh Gourav roars in Netflix's angry answer to Slumdog

UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 08:46 PM IST
  • The White Tiger movie review: Adarsh Gourav delivers a star-making performance in Ramin Bahrani's angry answer to Slumdog Millionaire, co-starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao.
Close
Deepika Padukone was seen with Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.
Deepika Padukone was seen with Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.

Deepika Padukone signs Hollywood agency ICM

PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:02 PM IST
Deepika Padukone is hoping more representation in Hollywood and has now signed on agency ICM, which currently represents multiple stars such as Eugene Levy, Regina King and others.
Close
Daniel Craig as James Bond in No Time To Die.
Daniel Craig as James Bond in No Time To Die.

James Bond movie No Time to Die delayed again, release date pushed to Oct

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 10:25 AM IST
The release of James Bond movie No Time to Die has been postponed again. The film is now scheduled to release in October.
Close
Tom Holland in his audition tape for Spider-Man.
Tom Holland in his audition tape for Spider-Man.

Tom Holland recalls 'terrible' Marvel audition process for Spider-Man

UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 02:22 PM IST
  • Actor Tom Holland spoke about the arduous audition process for Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the time he thought he'd be fired from the role.
Close
Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas have reportedly ended their relationship.
Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas have reportedly ended their relationship.

Ana de Armas' life-size cutout trashed outside Ben Affleck's house after breakup

PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 03:54 PM IST
  • A life-size cutout of Ana de Armas was trashed outside Ben Affleck's house, amid reports of their breakup.
Close
Chris Hemsworth and Sam Hargrave on the set of Extraction.
Chris Hemsworth and Sam Hargrave on the set of Extraction.

Extraction director says Marvel universe is inspiration for franchise's future

PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:30 PM IST
  • Joe and Anthony Russo are bringing their Marvel Cinematic Universe experience to fleshing out the Extraction franchise, director Sam Hargrave has said.
Close
Justin Timberlake is reportedly trying to mend his relationship Jessica Biel.
Justin Timberlake is reportedly trying to mend his relationship Jessica Biel.

Justin Timberlake announces birth of second son with Jessica Biel, reveals name

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 01:38 PM IST
  • Celebrity couple Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel have welcomed their second child, a year after he publicly apologised for inappropriate behaviour amid cheating rumours.
Close
Priyanka Chopra and Adarsh Gourav in The White Tiger.
Priyanka Chopra and Adarsh Gourav in The White Tiger.

Priyanka Chopra drops Divine's banging original song from White Tiger. Listen

PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 09:02 PM IST
  • Priyanka Chopra has shared Jungle Mantra, an original song from the White Tiger soundtrack, by Divine, featuring Vince Staples and Pusha T. Listen here.
Close
Ray Fisher played Cyborg in Justice League.
Ray Fisher played Cyborg in Justice League.

Ray Fisher confirms he's been removed from Flash movie, amid standoff with WB

UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 04:04 PM IST
  • Actor Ray Fisher has released a lengthy statement confirming his removal from the upcoming Flash movie, amid his standoff with Warner Bros.
Close
Riz Ahmed has talked about his wife for the first time.
Riz Ahmed has talked about his wife for the first time.

Riz Ahmed reveals his 'secret' wedding details along with wife's name

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 03:35 PM IST
Riz Ahmed has talked about his wife for the first time, how they got married during the pandemic and more.
Close
Chris Evans played Captain America in multiple MCU movies.
Chris Evans played Captain America in multiple MCU movies.

Chris Evans denies being in talks with Marvel to return as Captain America

PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 11:16 AM IST
As per fresh reports, Chris Evans is reportedly in talks to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain America. The actor, however, has denied the rumours.
Close
Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers have two kids together.
Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers have two kids together.

Armie Hammer breaks silence on DMs scandal, says he's quit his upcoming film

PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 09:29 PM IST
  • Actor Armie Hammer announced that he is quitting his upcoming film, amid a scandal around messages that he allegedly sent a woman.
Close
Patralekhaa reminisced about Rajkummar Rao's journey from Gurugram to New York.
Patralekhaa reminisced about Rajkummar Rao's journey from Gurugram to New York.

Patralekhaa spots The White Tiger hoarding in NYC, gives shout-out to Rajkummar

PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 07:57 PM IST
  • Patralekhaa spotted Rajkummar Rao on a hoarding of The White Tiger in New York and shared a picture on Instagram stories. She reminisced about his incredible journey, from Gurugram to New York.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP