Sylvia is in the tradition of Laura, a film in which the leading character is (initially at least) defined by other characters. In the case of the classic Laura, this approach works wonders, primarily because those who tell the audience about the title character do so from their own perspectives, and thereby making the character more complex and hard to define (while at the same time adding depth to the characters relating their impressions). It also helps that there is a murder mystery in the earlier film that helps to grab the audience. In Sylvia, by contrast, all the characters do is fill in missing pieces about the lady in question; there's no deepening of interest in the character, only the satisfaction of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It doesn't help that the picture in the puzzle is pretty easy to figure out well in advance. That said, the cast of Sylvia helps wonderfully in maintaining interest. While Carroll Baker doesn't do much with the title character -- hampered in part by the lack of surprising material -- and while George Maharis can only do so much with the detective role, the rest of the players more than make up for this, especially Ann Sothern, Viveca Lindfors and Aldo Ray.
by Craig Butler review