Running time: 114 min. Rated PG-13 (smoking, sexual content).
Tessa Thompson radiates retro glamour in “Sylvie’s Love,” an old-Hollywood throwback with a modern twist: its predominantly black cast.
Writer/director Eugene Ashe (“Homecoming”) sets this romance in the New York of the 1950s and ’60s, with a Technicolor sheen to match and a fabulous outfit on Thompson in every scene. It’ll make excellent holiday viewing, especially if you’ve tired of this year’s deluge of movies with Christmas in the title.
Thompson’s whip-smart Sylvie is working the counter at her dad’s (Lance Reddick) record shop, when in wanders aspiring jazz saxophonist Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha). Smitten with her, he talks his way into a job. In between shelving records, Sylvie schools him in her encyclopedic television knowledge, he invites her out to see him play, and sparks fly.
But Sylvie’s engaged to another man, overseas in the Korean War, and Robert’s soon headed to Paris with his band — so the pair is separated despite their glowing infatuation. Ashe traces their respective, ambitious paths as they weave farther away, and then closer, lingering on the starry moments when the two set eyes on each other again.
From sumptuous midcentury fashions to jewel-toned sets to a Motown score, “Sylvie’s Love” is a lovely, if lightweight, escape. Thompson and Asomugha have a banter-y chemistry, with Aja Naomi King (“How to Get Away With Murder”) a lively sidekick as Sylvie’s politically active cousin (the film nods only glancingly at the weighty civil rights struggles of the era). Eva Longoria, as a nightclub crooner, and Jemima Kirke as a deep-pocketed band manager, round out the cast.
With one slight wobble toward the conclusion, Ashe’s screenplay is terrific at letting its characters speak and act honestly: His dialogue is heartfelt and realistic. “Sylvie’s” is a love letter to the delights of a well-told love story.