French Film Review: Sibyl, Directed by Justine Triet

French Film Review: Sibyl, Directed by Justine Triet

Is it a comedy, a thriller, a tragedy perhaps? All of the above? Like its eponymous heroine, Justine Triet’s psychodrama (here is another one!) crosses boundaries, slyly evading categorisation. And we wouldn’t expect any less from the genre-bending visionary behind acclaimed ‘absurdist dramedy’ Victoria.

A recovering alcoholic and one-time novelist-turned-psychoanalyst dangerously teetering on the edge of a precipice of her own making, Sibyl (played by the impossibly mesmeric Virginie Efira) decides one merry day to drop the majority of her clients to return to her first passion: writing.

She’s in the throes of Blank Page Syndrome when in stumbles Margot, a troubled young actress embroiled in a love triangle with her co-star Igor and their director Mika – Igor’s partner – and pregnant with his (unwanted) child. Titillated by the illicit affair and Margot’s predicament – which not only resonates with her own past but swiftly dredges up distressing memories of a youth dogged by addiction – she agrees to take her on as a patient.

Soon, an increasingly rudderless Sibyl begins to covertly record their sessions in a bid to cure her writer’s block. Irretrievably sucked into her patient’s toxic ménage à trois (after half-heartedly resisting the urge to do so), she goes from passive observer to active participant, compulsively intervening in Margot’s life, shaping it like an omniscient narrator. The line becomes so blurred it’s unclear, especially to her, where her life ends and her patient/protagonist’s begins.

Therein lies Triet’s genius: mirroring the therapist’s spiral, the plot skids off the rails a touch further with each misguided impulse and self-destructive thrust, showing the beauty in the breakdown.

The sheer absurdity – and poignancy – of Sibyl’s situation is brought into stark relief in one simultaneously gripping and deliriously surreal scene, as she is roped into coaching Margot and Igor on set through a fraught love scene. Unpredictable until the end, Sibyl paints an uncompromising, utterly original and surprisingly hopeful portrait of a woman under the infl uence. Masterful.

Director: Justine Triet
Starring: Virginie Era, Adèle Exarchopoulos

From France Today magazine

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