Sylvie’s Love Parent Guide
This romance starts out with an ambitious script but then devolves into a tired melodrama.
Parent Movie Review
Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) is caught between two men. Her fiancé, Lacy (Alano Miller), is the son of a wealthy Harlem physician and is serving with the military in Korea. His rival, Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), is working part time at her father’s record store and playing saxophone in a jazz band at night. He is handsome, talented and besotted with Sylvie who is rapidly falling in love with him. Then he gets a gig in Paris and invites Sylvie to come with him. Now she can’t put off her decision any longer…
What complicates Sylvie’s decision making is that she’s also caught between two dreams. Her mother has spent years grooming Sylvie (and other young ladies in Harlem) to make “good marriages” and pursue a life of social-climbing domesticity. But Sylvie dreams of producing television shows – as outlandish for a Black woman in 1957 as fantasizing about going into space. The man she chooses will affect her other choices – as will the secret that she’s keeping.
The “eternal triangle” romance isn’t exactly original but it starts off well in Sylvie’s Love. The characters are well drawn and convincingly portrayed and the script is ambitious. Instead of just luxuriating in romantic tropes, the story explores issues of race, with one scene offering a classic portrayal of racial microagressions enmeshed in polite bigotry. It also tackles cultural assumptions about women’s roles through Sylvie’s struggles to assert the validity of her own dreams. As she wearily explains to her husband, “I’m tired of trying to be someone that I’m not. I’ve tried to be the woman that you want to me be. But it is exhausting. I can’t be the woman of your dreams if I can’t be the woman of my own.”
The movie also delivers a big win in terms of atmosphere. The sets are true to period and the wardrobes are wonderful fun for anyone who enjoys that mid-century “Mad Men” aesthetic. But the real glory of the movie is its music. The story glides along a soundtrack of smoky jazz that will submerge you in the sense of longing that pervades the film.
Despite its pluses, the movie comes with some negative content. There is a scene involving adultery, where a woman’s clothing is removed (without explicit nudity) and there are other scenes where sexual activity is implied, along with a barely discussed unwed pregnancy. More troubling than the sexual content is the characters’ cavalier attitude towards marital vows, which are treated as nothing more than an inconvenience to be ignored or discarded at will. A child’s need for a stable homelife is apparently not considered and her other needs never enter the picture. She feels more like a prop than a real person who deserves the complete dedication of her parents.
Sadly, Sylvie’s Love is ultimately a disappointment, going badly off the rails in the last 30 minutes. The first three-quarters of the movie deliver a complex, yearning love story, but the final quarter devolves into a limp, melodramatic soap opera. Foolish behavior and poor decisions seem designed solely to add tension and bloat the plot. Sylvie’s cousin reminds her of “extraordinary love” but what’s really seen here is “extraordinarily poor communication skills” and that’s not exactly the stuff of which dreams are made.Directed by Eugene Ashe. Starring Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Eva Longoria. Running time: 114 minutes. Theatrical release December 23, 2020. Updated December 23, 2020
Watch the trailer for Sylvie’s Love
Rating & Content Info
Why is Sylvie’s Love rated PG-13? Sylvie’s Love is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some sexual content, and smoking.
Violence: A man gets an electrical shock. Adults shout at each other in a quarrel.
Sexual Content: Sexual innuendo. Young women sunbathe in swimwear, including a bikini Talk of “messing around”. Women dance provocatively while wearing scanty outfits including bikini tops and slit harem pants. There are scenes of men and women kissing passionately. Sex is implied in one scene but there is no detail. It is implied that an unmarried woman is pregnant. A man removes a married woman’s dress and carries her to bed; he removes her bra (only her back is seen) sex is implied. Woman tells joke with sexual innuendo.
Profanity: A single term of deity is used in the film.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters drink alcohol in social situations. People smoke frequently. A main character drinks to deal with stress.
Page last updated December 23, 2020
Sylvie’s Love Parents' Guide
What do you think about Sylvie’s choices? Do you think she chose the right man to marry? Why did she make that choice? What are the ramifications?
Sylvie keeps an important secret early on in the film. Why does she do it? What would have happened differently had she been more forthcoming?
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