There is a kind of clemency criticism at work in the evaluation of certain films. While other films with the same qualities would be hauled over the coals, here the work is praised for being filled with clichés of the romantic genre: Boy Meets Girl. But Girl is engaged to marry a rich Suitor. But she can’t resist the pangs of love. They make out. She gets pregnant. Is forced to marry Rich Suitor after her mom admonishes her with a Beti-pyar-se-pet-nahin-bharta lecture. The girl is deeply unhappy in the marriage (ref: Aishwarya Rai in Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam). Meets Dream Boy again by chance. Their mutual passion is re-ignited.
Do I need to go on with where this is going? Sylvie’s Love is blissfully insulated from extraneous reality and suffused with all the expected twists and turns of a typical love story. There isn’t one surprise here. Unless you are so naïvely romantic that your mouth would fall open in a clear ‘O’ ( O for ‘Oh Dear’, not ‘Orgasm’) when Sylvie confesses to Robert that her daughter is his, theirs.
Admittedly Sylvie’s Love is charming if not a heady concoction. A cocktail of romantic yearning and star-crossed love where the lead pair seems lopsided mainly because Tessa Thompson who plays Sylvie is so much more charismatic than the male lead. She blossoms under luscious the nostalgic lenses of cinematographer Declan Quinn and emerges at the end as the classic heroine from another era, so gentle and graceful.
Speaking of the era, the 1950s is beautifully recreated through the magical rock and roll sounds of the era. Like Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the hero Nnamdi Asomugha in Sylvie’s Love is a part of a musical band in the 1950s-60s, far more talented than the other band members, yet relegated to the background and finally pushed out of his rightful place at the top.
I am afraid Nnamdi Asomugha (who apropos nothing is one of the producers of this film) lacks the staying-power of a true romantic hero. He is dull and glaringly disadvantaged in comparison with his co-star who is a natural-born in front of the camera. The actor who plays Sylvie’s husband (Alana Miller) seems far more correct for Sylvie. In the sequence where Sylvie tells him she will follow her dreams, he is more effective in conveying the emotions of a man who has everything except reciprocated love than the romantic lead in conveying the emotions of a man who has his love but insists on denying it.
There is no real dramatic conflict in the story. Everything moves like well-oiled machinery. The pitch of narration is moderate, the lovers are coy(no nudity during love-making) and the hero asks the heroine’s permission before kissing her the first time.
Directed by Eugene Ashe, Sylvie's Love gets three stars.
Image source: Youtube/AmazonPrimeVideo, Imdb
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