The initiation rites of primitive societies brought individuals face to face with the fears and even the hidden terrors lurking in the shadows of their lives. Sadly enough, modern societies have no equivalent rituals for youth. It is up to soulful individuals to create their own journeys of passage into adulthood.

In 1977, Phoebe O'Connor (Jordana Brewster) lives in San Francisco with her mother (Blythe Danner). Having just graduated from high school, she is still haunted by the memory of her beautiful and charismatic sister Faith (Cameron Diaz), who committed suicide in Portugal six years ago. Everything frightens Phoebe, and she has been a spectator in life, unwilling to risk anything.

Although her mother is against it, Phoebe decides to travel to Europe, retrace Faith's steps, and try to find out what really happened to her. Failing to turn up anything in Amsterdam, she manages to locate her sister's ex-boyfriend Wolf (Christopher Eccleston), who is living in Paris with a French woman (Isabelle Pasco). He recounts his experiences in Europe with Faith and explains how she got involved with two radical left-wing terrorist groups in Berlin. Wolf never joined her since he was exhausted by years of counterculture protests and drug use. Still not satisfied with the picture of her sister she's put together, Phoebe decides to go on to Portugal. Unable to envision her traveling alone, Wolf volunteers to accompany her. He also wants closure on Faith's suicide.

Adam Brooks directs from a screenplay he's adapted from a novel by Jennifer Egan. The drama touches upon the close relationship between the two sisters and how much Faith's father depended upon her high regard for him. She lived on the edge as a tribute to him since he never realized his dreams.

Phoebe's quest to find out the truth about her sister, have her own adventure, and stand on her own two feet is fulfilled. Wolf serves as a guide on the journey and, in the end, releases a burden he's been carrying for six years. The Invisible Circus is a soul-satisfying film about one young woman's rite of initiation into adulthood.