A flimsy, unremarkable story of obsession.
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Justine Triet is less committed to some make-believe realism than she is to the tricks that memory and language can play on us.
The final third, especially, is by-the-numbers plotting. It’s a pity, as the film starts off promising some interesting overarching themes, especially Sibyl’s underhand ethics of mining her psychological examinations for fiction. As a metaphor for artistic invention, it’s an interesting, but unsuccessful one.
Sibyl is far less than the sum of its parts, and never manages to shake off a heavy tone which consistently threatens to capsize even the rare funny interludes.
Triet’s chic, blackly comic psychodrama piles up bad decisions like so many profiteroles in a croquembouche, admiring the teetering spectacle of its chaos as it goes.
Efira is a dominant and compelling presence and Sibyl is frequently funny. Ultimately, it never quite squares the circle of the comedy and the pain, but Triet is a sophisticated filmmaker and this – her third feature – is further proof of great talent.
It’s about as French as you can get, to a point that feels borderline absurd in places, and yet Triet handles the material gracefully and altogether skillfully, directing star Virginie Efira to one of her most impressive all-encompassing performances to date.
There are visually stunning scenes throughout, but the acting and writing are the pièce de résistance of Sibyl and should be exactly why you put this film on your radar as one to watch from 2019. It’s certainly going on my end of year favorite list.
Sibyl is for people who like French movies even when they’re a little ridiculous.
Fundamentally, Sybil is not funny because it is not convincing, and some of the acting is not of the highest order. Efira’s “drunk” turn is something she may wish to omit from her showreel.