Comments on watching and making films.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

DVD - Sybil

Mental illness is, probably, one of the hardest things to truly express in film. It is, almost always, attempted with the best intentions, but, often times, either falls short of shedding any new light on a condition, or it runs head long into ridiculousness. There are a hand full of films that have done it right, and hundreds that fall into one of these two categories. Sybil, which was originally devised as a mini-series, gets it as right as it could for the time that it was made.

Sybil stars Sally Field as the titular character, a young New Yorker who's dream is to move from substitute teaching into full time slot teaching art. She is taking a class of youngsters on a field trip to Central Park, when, upon witnessing an event near her, she loses time, and wakes up, knee deep, in a pond with all of her students and another teacher staring at her. Strange things keep happening, and the occurrences come more often since the park. Sybil seeks help from a psychologist, Dr. Wilbur, who, over time, discovers Sybil has multiple personalities. As Wilbur learns more about the dark aspects of Sybil's childhood, she is left to wonder how Sybil survived at all, and if she can, honestly, do anything to help bring Sybil's personalities together.

Sybil was originally aired as a mini-series, and, as such, retains its three hour plus run time. This makes it kind of a hard watch, especially since its not separated into its original episodes, only presented as whole. That being said, Sally Field does an amazing job as a woman who is so incredibly divided, internally, that she often times doesn't know who people are that her alters met, or how she got to where she is. She is the consummate lost individual. Brad Davis, as Richard J. Loomis, a love interest in the story, brings a much needed dimensionality to Sybil's problems that would not have existed, had her interactions only been with strangers or with Dr. Wilbur. Jane Hoffman is incredibly creepy as Sybil's mother, the mentally ill woman who inflicts all of the torture on Sybil. While the film moves along pretty well (barring, as I said before, its long run time), the only thing that seemed odd to me was the ending. It seemed like Sybil, with the help of Dr. Wilbur, was able to bring her personalities together so easily at the end, once she had discovered what was going on. The ending just feels like they wrapped everything up real quick to keep it within an allotted run time. To me, I would think going more in depth on how Sybil was cured would be the more interesting thing, once you've established her problem. I think Sybil was worth the watch, but I would have liked an episode separation so I could watch it in chunks like it was originally presented.

No comments: