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‘Sibyl’ Review: Diagnosing Problems, and Creating More


Whether psychological drama or sexual farce — and, really, there’s no way to tell — “Sibyl” is a soapy mess. That goes double for its title character, an alcoholic therapist whose license should probably be revoked, and for at least two other addled souls in this bonkers brew of memory and erotic obsession.

Props to the director, Justine Triet, though (she also had a hand in writing the script): It isn’t easy to bore with a plot containing abortion, attempted suicide, medical malpractice and caution-to-the-winds nudity. Sibyl herself (Virginie Efira) is an emotional blank, detached from her practice in Paris and determined to return to the writing career she abandoned a decade earlier. While unloading her miffed clients, she unwisely accepts a desperate phone call from Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a pregnant actress whose current movie role may be jeopardized if she has an abortion. Her oily lover (Gaspard Ulliel) is her co-star, and he’s also sleeping with their director (Sandra Hüller).

There’s more — including a spiky sister played by the wonderful, underused Laure Calamy — but I have neither the space nor the inclination to elaborate. Suffice to say that Sibyl, seemingly intent on using Margot’s story to kick-start a novel, illicitly records their sessions and becomes a player in Margot’s complicated ménage-à-however many. Steamy memories of a former lover tug her backward; but the entire premise is so preposterous, and the dialogue so frequently risible, that Sibyl’s ability to write anything other than a prescription is less than credible.

“I’ve gone off the rails,” she whines near the end, “I’m not in any reality.” Points for enlightenment, however late in the game.

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas.

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