Virginie Efira stars as a would-be novelist who crosses an ethical line in a stylish romantic thriller that premiered In Competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Sibyl (Virginie Efira), a psychologist on the cusp of a professional crisis, dispassionately gives up her roster of clients to reinvent herself as a writer. Paralysed by writer’s block, she continues to see a single patient; an actress, Margot (Adele Exarchopoulos), whose tumultuous personal life offers irresistible fodder for exactly the sort of character arc Sibyl is desperate to conjure. Sibyl strays into an ethical minefield, appropriating elements of Margot’s life for her novel, but when the actress insists that Sibyl accompany her on a film shoot to the island of Stromboli, director Justine Triet sets the scene for a reckoning.
In her second collaboration with rising star Virginie Efira (Benedetta) – Efira starred in the director’s 2016 film, In Bed with Victoria, which also explored female experience and desire – Triet evokes Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt in setting the central characters’ strained relationship against the backdrop of a tense film shoot. Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann) is entertainingly well cast in the role of a mercurial film director trying to elicit award-worthy performances from her unpredictable and volatile leads. Setting the film-within-a-film on the island of Stromboli, with its active volcano, also seems to gesture thematically to Italian Neo-realist director Roberto Rossellini’s film, Stromboli (1950), which starred his wife-to-be, Ingrid Bergman, as a woman beset by her own deep dissatisfactions. Auteur nods to Godard and Rossellini notwithstanding, Triet has directed (and co-written) a psychological drama satisfyingly filtered through a modern, female sensibility. In a powerhouse ensemble cast of female talent that includes the aforementioned Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Colour), Gaspard Ulliel (Saint Laurent) gamely holds his own.
“Seals the arrival of Efira as a first-class leading lady of consistently expanding range and elan.” - Variety