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Sylvie’s Love takes place in New York City toward the end of the 1950’s. The protagonists Robert, played by actor Nnamdi Asomugha, and Sylvie, played by actor Tessa Thompson, connect through Sylvie’s father’s record store, where Robert gets a part-time job. Sylvie, an aspiring television producer and Robert, a saxophonist of a jazz quartet, find themselves at an impasse when their kindled flame is simmered as a result of Robert’s journey abroad to tour. As the years pass, Sylvie has landed her dream career as a television producer, but also married to the fiancé who had once been at war.
As fate would play its role, Sylvie and Robert find themselves acquainted once again. The dynamic draws the story in a direction where decisions have to be made that challenges expectations and requires Sylvie to decide what she wants, in its entirety.
Co-Creator of Black Love Doc, Codie Elaine Oliver, spoke with the writer/director, Eugene Ashe, to dive into Sylvie’s Love and the process of building the story infused with love, music, and the many changes life brings. He spoke of what inspired the story and made the idea take the form of a film.
“The genesis of the idea came from looking through my old family photo albums and seeing a very different depiction of Black life in the 60’s than I had seen in other movies. Most of the time when we…talk about the era that Sylvie’s Love is set in, we’re focusing on our trauma or struggle. The pictures in my photo albums…looked like people I’d see in movies like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” so I wanted to investigate what that type of movie would look like with Black folks falling in love,” Ashe stated.
As an audience, having a front row seat into the mind of how stories come to be gives us a greater understanding of the setting, the character development, and even the music chosen to score the context of the film. Ashe described the film’s theme which allows the audience insight to possible plot twists within the film.
“I describe it by the theme of it, which is how unfinished business with the love of your life can kind of set you on a path to arrested development. It can jack you up in your other relationships, in your career, so with Robert and Sylvie they do (find themselves) trying to work things out.”
To a greater point, Codie Elaine Oliver highlighted that the film really jumps into the question of “Can a woman have it all and empower herself?”, specifically in a time in history where it wasn’t often actualized for Black women.
Ashe assured, “Another one of the themes is selfless love — being willing to give up, even the love itself so that the other person can be happy and not being selfish about wanting to possess them in that way. Sylvie has a passion (television) and Robert has a passion (music)…and I wanted to tell that story because I came from a household where my mother worked. My mother and all of her friends were women who worked and they were all accomplished. And when they would sit in the house talking, they weren’t just talking about men. They would talk about their ideas and their aspirations and goals.”
Ashe calls the film “a love letter to the Black people of [the 1950’s and 60’s].” Watch Sylvie’s Love on Amazon Prime on December 23rd —yes, Christmas has come early. The movie also features some of our favorite Black Love Doc spouses including Alano Miller, Ryan Michelle Bathe, and Kareem Stroud.