Film Review: Sibyl (2019)

STUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Justine Triet | CAST: Virginie Efira, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Gaspard Ulliel, Sandra Hüller, Laure Calamy, Niels Schneider
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 13, 2020
SPECS: NR | 101 min. | Drama French With English Subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 3Dishes.jpg (40×13)

A smart and witty idea that would work best in a better film, Sibyl is an unusual hybrid of dark comedy and probing drama that clicks only occasionally during parts of its running time.

The plot is somewhat simple, centering on the titular character (Virginie Efira, Elle), a psychotherapist who looks back on her life when she was a best-selling author with a young child and rocky relationship in tow. In the present day, Sybil begins taping her conversations with a new client, a young, pregnant actress (Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color) involved in a sticky triangle with her lover (Gaspard Ulliel, A Heavenly Vintage) and a female film director (Sandra Huller, Toni Erdmann). Sibyl soon attempts to get herself a little too closely involved in her client’s life, stepping over the boundaries of a doctor-client relationship and planning to use her recordings as the basis for a new book.

Led by the charismatic Efira, the cast is uniformly superb and the film’s lustrous European environs are easy to look at (as are some of the film’s frank erotic sequences). Alas, Sibyl’s tone uneasily fluctuates between lightly satiric, deeply serious and campy soap opera-esque. Once a viewer gets used to a certain pace and mood, Sibyl—both the film and the character– shifts gears, often leaving the viewer in the dust. This is a case where despite the best intentions of writer-director Justine Triet (In Bed with Victoria) to get inside the world of two women who become dependent on each other, the task proves to be almost too ambitious to tackle.

Watch Sybil

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.