Sibyl ★★★½


[originally written as part of my TIFF '19 coverage]

Thought I had my film of the year for a while. Stupendously directed from its very first shot: a slow zoom into a lunchtime conversation in which the man’s inane torrent of words is visually “echoed” by conveyor belts of food items moving past and around the actors. (I’m unfamiliar with this dining setup, but its use here couldn’t be more inspired.) This is my first round with Triet, who shoots like an editor and repeatedly took my breath away with simple cuts; expository flashbacks usually annoy me, but not when they’re as ruthlessly configured as they are here. Unfortunately, the narrative, which initially seems equally expert, kinda goes off the rails when Sibyl follows her newest patient to Stromboli; much of what follows only makes sense if we assume it’s an invention of Sibyl-the-novelist—a possibility that Triet seems to go out of her way to dispel. Nor was I able to reconcile the patient-as-literary-fodder aspect with Sibyl’s difficulty accepting the half of her young daughter’s DNA contributed by The One Who Got Away. A bit of a mess, ultimately, but Virginie Efira (in the title role) looks like a potential breakout, and Triet’s so blatantly gifted that I’ll follow her anywhere for a while.