Adèle Exarchopoulos is simply breathtaking and continues her impressive resume with another amazing role. However, Virginie Efria’s stellar starring role as the titular “Sibyl” showcases a new emerging talent in world cinema.
Despite everyone’s advice, Sibyl (Virginie Efira) wants to give up her promising psychiatric practice in order to write the next great novel. While phasing out her practice, Sybil struggles with too much time on her hands and the tedious task of writing slowly starts to become overbearing. However, a new source of inspiration comes from aspiring actress Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who wants to discuss her torrid, dramatic affair with co-star Igor (Gaspard Ulliel), who is married to their film’s director (Sandra Hüller). Soon Sibyl’s obsession into Margot’s mystifying life blurs reality and fiction to create the perfect source material.
In her second collaboration with Virginie Efira, Justine Triet’s psychodrama “Sibyl” is a smart, sultry character study about a jaded psychiatrist, who reluctantly takes on an up-and-coming actress and how their respective tumultuous lives intertwine. Previously featured at Cannes and the Toronto Film Festivals, director Justine Triet terrifically brings to life a film focused on how to reinvent yourself. Through the eyes of the titular character, Sibyl’s constant state of denial and dealing with the skeletons in her closet continuously brings her down. Through her creative writing is Sibyl able to escape everyday life.
Thanks to tenacious performances by the principal cast, rising star Virginie Efria simply shines and is absolutely an actress to watch. Efria’s exceptional emotional range works wonders and is an absolute pleasure to watch her remarkable rigorous honesty. The seductive subtly she exhibits resonates across the screen and provides a worthy emotional experience. However, the two true gems are Adèle Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Colour”) and Sandra Hüller (“Toni Erdmann”) whose compelling heroines stunningly showcase the sophisticated nature of affairs and complex relationships with everyone involved. They beautifully balance between dramatic and comedic performances without teetering too much. Adèle Exarchopoulos’ earnest exploration of her psyche exceptionally exhibits a “women on the edge” and once again demonstrates her ever-evolving acting abilities with another bold, beautiful role. Despite minimal screen time, Sandra Hüller packs a wallop with a spectacular scene-stealing performance. If nothing else, these three incredibly interesting actresses are worth the price of admission alone.
Despite an addicting storyline consumed by emotional distress and in the wheelhouse of a “woman on the edge” film, “Sibyl” stumbles to maintain enough clarity and constantly challenges viewers too much. The frustrating frequency of time travel becomes bothersome and pulls you further away from what’s happening. There’s amazing acting, captivating cinematography, exquisite editing and plenty of memorable moments, but it’s a convoluted mismatched movie unable to properly come together. There’s enough entertaining moments to overcome the shortcomings to make it worth watching. Still, the formulaic feel will certainly frustrate those expecting more than your typical, enjoyable French film.
Dynamic duo Justine Triet and her muse Virginie Efira certainly capture your attention once again. Like Sybil’s emotions, it’s a beautiful mess and it’s up to you how much you’re willing to tolerate. If the lead character was more likable and sympathetic, “Sybil” would’ve hit all the right emotions. Nonetheless, Virginie Efira, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Sandra Hüller make this one therapy session you should register for and make an appointment.
2 ½ out of 4 stars
“Sybil” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, September 11 at Film at Lincoln Center, Laemmle’s Virtual Cinemas, and more!
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