Sybil (1976)

SYBIL (1976)
TV-Movie
Article 2327 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-9-2007
Posting Date: 12-26-2007
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Featuring Joanne Woodward, Sally Field, Brad Davis

A psychiatrist discovers a woman who has multiple personalities, and undertakes the task of helping her to face her demons and to heal.

It’s somehow fitting that we follow up STALK THE WILD CHILD with another TV-Movie about a doctor trying to help someone to fit into the world. I have to admit that I’m always a little apprehensive at the thought of sitting down to a movie which runs over three hours long, but the movie manages to be gripping enough that my attention never flagged. Much of this is due to the outstanding performances by Sally Field and Joanne Woodward, with Field in particular permanently putting to rest memories of “Gidget” and “The Flying Nun” by tackling a role that would be an immense challenge to anyone and pulling it off brilliantly. Technically, the movie lies outside of the fantastic genres, being based on a real-life case of multiple personalities, but madness has always been a part and parcel of horror as does hypnotism, which also plays a part in the proceedings. Furthermore, all the vampires and werewolves we encounter in horror movies are merely rehearsals for the human monsters that we can encounter in the real world, and Sybil’s mother is certainly the stuff of nightmares. There are moments of horror in both the real-life events and the nightmare sequences, the latter of which includes the decapitated head of a cat. Probably the only real false note in the proceedings is the character of the boyfriend who lives in the apartment across the street from Sybil; as it turns out, this character existed only in the movie and not in the real-life story of the title character. The movie also features the recently deceased Charles Lane in a memorable cameo as a doctor. This is truly one of the finest TV-Movies ever made, and one of the rare ones that attempts to give an accurate portrayal of the mental health profession.

 

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