In ‘Sylvie’s Love,’ writer-producer-director Eugene Ashe (‘Homecoming’) remade the beauty and elegance of the romance series of the time in which the film is set; from the late 1950s to early 1960s. He used the ingredients used in making movies like ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘That Touch of Mink’ timeless classics. Then, he used it to change his Harlem love story into something magical and unforgettable.
“When we talk about the sixties and Black folks, it’s often framed through our adversity,” Ashe said in an interview with The New Yorker. “What I saw growing up was very different”. The filmmaker’s own experience uplifts the beating heart of this spectacular piece of homage and ultimately helps it find its unique identity. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Sylvie’s Love Plot Synopsis
In 1957’s Harlem, Sylvie Parker (Tessa Thompson) stays a lot of time at her father’s record store, listening to music and dreaming of becoming a television producer. One day, gifted saxophonist Robert Halloway (Nnamdi Asomugha) enters in the shop for buying the newest offering from Thelonious Monk. His real reason is to get a chance to talk to the pretty girl. He has looked over her through the store windows. Robert realizes that she is already engaged.
Disheartened but still not fully discouraged, Robert takes a job at the store, and he and Sylvie start spending more and more time together, relating over their shared love for music. It begins purely and genuinely as a platonic relationship, changing into a summer fling, complete with stolen kisses, dancing under a streetlight, and stargazing from a rooftop. And after not too long, it almost inevitably becomes something intensely deeper. As it is common in urban fairy tales like this, the lovers always have to separate because their immediate fates lie elsewhere.
Robert visits Paris with his band, unaware that Sylvie is pregnant with their child. After Lacy (Alano Miller), Sylvie’s fiancé, comes back from the Korean War, he takes her as she is. They marry and start parenting their daughter together. Five years after Robert and Sylvie’s encounter each other again. In between the flood of emotions and wistful musings, they both learn that they have never moved on from each other. Sylvie then makes a drastic decision, choosing to live for herself for the first time in her life.
She chooses love over security and passion over comfort. She parts ways with Lacy and reconciles with Robert, later introducing him to their daughter. At this point, the film suddenly pivots. Ashe doesn’t conclude his movie with a typical happily ever after. Instead, he compels his protagonists to face the realities of their time and puts their love through a metaphorical trial by fire. Robert and Sylvie almost fail the test, but it’s mainly due to communication issues. The love they have for each other remains as pure as ever.
Sylvie’s Love Ending: The Sacrifices Made For Love
After Robert learns that the promises he received of a Motown gig in Detroit were fake, he makes a similar sacrifice to what Sylvie went through all those years ago, when she let him go to Paris without informing him about her pregnancy. She knew that Robert was not only an extra-ordinarily talented saxophonist but also loved playing the instrument. If she had informed him about her pregnancy, he would have canceled the Paris trip and embraced his new responsibilities. Because she loved him, Sylvie could not do that to him, not even for herself and the new guest they were expecting.
So, when Robert’s turn comes, he gives her back all that she sacrificed. Sylvie has always had interest in television. She now has everything she has ever wanted as a producer of her own TV show. And yet, she wants to leave it all behind and move to Detroit with him. When he visits her at her work, he sees her in her element for the first time and realizes that she should not have loved him at such a cost. Till now, Sylvie has made all the sacrifices in their relationship.
Aside from not confessing to him about the pregnancy, she was the one who had to build the courage to walk out of her marriage. He separated with her in a painful but simple manner after telling her that he will go to Detroit alone. An angry and heartbroken Sylvie can’t understand why he is doing this and even charges him of infidelity; a charge that Robert immediately denies. Not too long before Sylvie realizes the depth of his sacrifice. She gets to know from Carmen (Eva Longoria) that Robert is now working at an auto plant in Detroit.
Later, her cousin Mona (Aja Naomi King) helps her see what Robert has done is almost what she did for him before his Paris trip. Before she travels to Detroit and meets with Robert, Sylvie asks Mona about her favorite song for this moment. It’s a game that the cousins have played since their youth. Mona’s reply is “The Best Is Yet to Come” by Frank Sinatra. It’s a perfect song that accumulates the emotions in the estranged couple’s reunion. As Mona puts it, the love they hold is exceptional, built on the basic block of mutual sacrifice.
What Is the Significance of the End Credits?
The scenes that appear in the end credits are Ashe’s way of telling his audience that the two protagonists did indeed end up getting a happily ever after. Sylvie gives Robert her late father’s saxophone, and he ultimately starts performing again. She resumes to produce her cooking show. Despite being fearful of the ocean all her life, she visits the beach with her family. This ending brings with it a sense of permanence. This time, they are together for good.