Sybil (2019)

A narrative that weaves together the past and the present of a psychotherapist, blurring the lines between reality and imagination.

8/11/20233 min read

French, English, 100 mins, 2019

Director: Justine Triet

Cast: Virginie Efira, Adele Exarchopoulos, Sandra Huller, Gaspard Ulliel, Paul Hamy

Awards: Nominee Palme d ‘Or, Cannes Film Festival, 2019; Winner, Best Actress (Virginie Efira), International Cinephile society, Cannes, 2019; Winner Asecan Award for Best Film, Seville European Film Festival, 2019.

Set in the bustling city of Paris, Sibyl is a story of a psychotherapist who wants to go back to writing novels, her original passion. So, she reassigns and refers her patients to other psychologists. While she is transitioning, one patient, Margot ( Adele Exarchopoulos), an actress, calls her one evening and urges her to meet her as it is very important and she is in the midst of an emergency. On meeting her, Margot reveals that she is pregnant and the father is a famous co-actor. To complicate matters further, she and the actor are part of a film which is directed by Mika (Sandra Huller), a woman director, who also happens to be the actor’s girlfriend. Now, she is worried about the child-whether to keep or abort, and how the decision will affect her career.

It becomes clear to Sibyl that Margot is emotionally in tatters and wants Sibyl to take decision about her pregnancy-whether to terminate it or not which Sibyl is not ready to do. Margot tells her that the film unit is flying off to an island for a long shoot and she needs to take the decision soon. Meanwhile, Sibyl starts penning her novel, which apparently is based loosely about her experiences with Margot. She discusses her increasing involvement with Margot with her fellow psychotherapist who reminds her that she is not supposed to get involved with her patients.

As Sibyl is writing, she has kept her mobile phone on flight mode. When she switches back, she sees continuous list of messages by Margot informing her about abortion operation and flight to island thereafter. Sibyl calls her and learns that she is about to board the plane and she did not abort the foetus. Sibyl reminds her that decision of termination (or non-termination) of pregnancy is Margot’s job and not Sibyl’s.

At shoot, the situation explodes when Margot swallows some pills and the co-actor Igor (Gaspard Ulliel) calls Sibyl. Soon, Sibyl is off to island as Margot needs urgent attention. There, Sibyl finds herself getting more involved with the process and people. One night, after a taxing day, she is relaxing at the beach when Igor approaches her to take walk along the beach and end up making love on beach. How? Why? Well, we are as clueless as the director, it seems.

As director Mika learns this, she asks Sibyl to leave island; Margot too is livid and Sibyl is sent packing back. Soon film is completed and released and she is invited to the first screening. At the release party, Sibyl gets drunk and makes a fool of herself. How? Why? Again we are clueless. After a long time of ten months we see Sibyl back to her normal life and film ends.

‘Sibyl’ movie is entrusted with such good actors and yet it goes nowhere. Some viewer wrote that this movie is like a child showing a lot of promise early but doesn’t do well in life. Absolutely agree. Sibyl is shown as aimless and random as the script itself. She has sex with Gabriel, her boyfriend, then with her colleague psychotherapist and then with the actor, Igor, on the island which seems very random for a seasoned psychotherapist. Then as director scoots the set once, she is handed over reins to complete the shot- is direction such an easy job that any person can just do it? The structure of the screenplay itself is broken and faulty and hence you don’t get involved even a wee bit despite superb performances by Adele, Sandra, Gaspard and above all by Virginie Efira as Sybil.

About the director, Justine Triet

Born in July 1978, in Fecamp, France, Justine graduated from Beaux Arts de Paris, the classical and historical school of fine arts in France.

Her first feature film 'Age of Panic' was made in 2013, which is about a TV journalist covering French elections and her ex-boyfriend. The film was premiered as part of ACID (Association for the Diffusion of Independent Cinema) program of Cannes Film Festival.

She made her second film ‘In Bed With Victoria’, which she wrote and directed, in 2016, which won Cesar awards for Best Film and Best Screenplay. 'Sybil', made in 2019, is her third film. The film won 2 awards and around 9 nominations, totally in various film festivals across the globe.

Notably, her most recent film ’Anatomy of a fall’ starring Sandra Huller won Palme d’Or at Cannes Film festival in 2023 making her only the third female director to win the coveted award.