With a study of how one’s mind navigates between stability and insanity, french director Justine Triet’s latest feature Sibyl is a legitimate attempt at portraying the complexity within human imagination. Combining drama with a touch of dark comedy and a pinch of thriller, Sibyl has great intentions but never quite takes off.
Virginie Efira slides into the character of the eponymous Sibyl, a psychotherapist longing to reconnect with her love for writing, and who starts to lose every notion of reality after meeting the hypnotic yet hypersensitive young actress Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Captive of a disastrous love triangle – on one side, her co-star and lover Igor (Gaspard Ulliel), on the other side, the director of the film who happens to be Igor’s not so oblivious fiancée – Margot uses Sybil as her very personal coping mechanism while Sibyl herself uses Margot as material for her newest novel.
Sibyl writes its own subtext by slowly blending fiction into reality, with a main character vacillating between naive curiosity and blunt obsession. Triet’s silky camera surely soothes the picture of turmoil but provides, above all, subtitles that warn of the unsuspected dangers of creating a narrative. Murky at the core with a dry humour, a vague limit between real existences and fantasy sets in and cleverly brings confusion and chaos not only to Sibyl, but also to the audience.
Sibyl’s dominating flaw probably lies in its too fertile plot that might have too much to say for a two hour running time. By trying to explain as much as possible of Sybil’s parallel lives, past and present, Triet loses sight of coherency. If the omnipresent and constant flashbacks metaphorically symbolise the whirling insides of Sibyl’s mind, the film won’t fill an everlasting impression of gaps.
Although the main character’s roundabout status makes of her the adequate pivot for a rich and thriving story about ‘non fiction’, Sibyl ends up lacking emphasis, despite Virginia Efira’s significant performance.
CAST: Virginie Efira, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Gaspard Ulliel
DIRECTOR: Justine Triet
WRITER: Arthur Harari, Justine Triet
SYNOPSIS: A jaded psychotherapist returns to her first passion of becoming a writer.