Sibyl (2019)

Director: Justine Triet
Writer: Arthur Harari, Justine Triet
Cast: Virginie Efira, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Gaspard Ulliel, Sandra Hüller, Laure Calamy, Niels Schneider, Paul Hamy, Arthur Harari
Seen on: 3.8.2020

Sibyl (Virginie Efira) is a therapist who feels inspired to return to her first passion of writing novels. So she lets go most of her clients and prepares to write a novel. When she gets a call from the young actress Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos) who is in obvious distress, she makes an exception and takes her own as a client as well. In Margot’s story, she finds the inspiration she needed for her novel, but the more time they spend together, the deeper Sibyl gets sucked into the story herself.

Sibyl gives us an antiheroine in quite a few very complicated relationships (and if they aren’t complicated on their own, she knows how to complicate them). This is engaging material, especially with that cast, but it does spiral a little too much at times.

The film poster showing half of Sibyl's (Virginie Efira) and half of Margot's (Adèle Exarchopoulos) face.

Sibyl is a great character filled with contradictions. She is obviously competent in her job (as can be seen with her other remaining client), and yet she also callously crosses all kinds of professional boundaries with Margot. She is in therapy herself, but completely disregards what her therapist (Arthur Harari) tells her – she just can’t help it, her own past triggered by Margot’s present and the novel writing, she is caught in slide downwards that she just isn’t able to stop. How much she realizes that she is sliding is open for debate.

Efira is fantastic in portraying the many layers of Sibyl and making them all work together somehow. Exarchopoulos is given much less to play with, her Margot overwrought, but less complex, but she is brilliant, too. But both are probably outplayed by Hüller, whose few short scenes are the ones where the film really comes together.

Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos) lying on the couch.

That is probably Sibyl‘s biggest problem: there is a lot going on – different times, places, mixing of fiction and reality, a film in a film. It’s no surprise that things get muddled and one could argue that it is a fair representation of Sibyl who is all over the place, too. But for the audience, it is a little tiring and sometimes, very big question marks remain, like the subplot with Sibyl’s daughter. Is it supposed to indicate that the next generation of troubled women is already growing up?

In any case, I enjoyed the film for the most part and remained invested in the story and the characters. The ending was a bit of a let-down, though, and doesn’t do the rest of the film justice.

Sibyl (Virginie Efira) waiting in a restaurant, a giant aquarium behind her.

Summarizing: worth seeing but could have been better.

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