Film Review: The Library Suicides

Twin sisters do it for themselves in Euros Lyn's outstanding feature debut The Library Suicides. The Welsh filmmaker's wealth of TV directorial experience from the likes of Broadchurch and Happy Valley are evident in a dark, sordid tale of memory, legacy and grief in which present revelations lurch forward in violent fits and starts as past truths surface with painstaking patience. A captivating dual turn by Catrin Stewart sees her play Ana and Nan, twins identical in appearance but distinguished by subtle differences in manner and mannerisms. Both work in a library archive and a gripping opening sequence cross-cuts between a worryingly sinister explanation of their work and an elderly woman perched perilously on a ledge.

An ominous bloody footprint marks the sill, she turns and bangs on a window that is closed behind her before jumping, or perhaps simply falling, to her death. Petrified daughters arrive below as her final words declare: "It was Eben." It is a tantalisingly enigmatic and extremely well crafted beginning. Convinced that their mother, a renowned author, did not commit suicide and that Eben (Ryland Teifi), her biographer, was responsible, the girls make plans to take revenge. Frontier justice in that most savage of locales, a Welsh coastal village. Though co-workers are able to tell Ana and Nan apart, Lyn makes it purposefully challenging for a viewer in the first act. Evidently the mirror image of one another, they are frequently positioned performing symmetrical actions: pointing a gun at the other's head in the bath tub, identical outfits side by side on a bed, sips of tea at conjoined desks at precisely the same time.

To divulge too much of the plot would spoil the experience of immersing oneself in Fflur Dafydd's superbly well pitched script. Subtitled from the wonderful lyricism of the writer's native Welsh tongue, the story plays out with the page-turning irresistibility of a Nordic noir crime novel and just as the best thrillers so often hang on one vital item or piece of information, all hinges here on a singular page of a 1989 journal. Dyfan Dwyfor, as a security guard who has rather a soft spot for one of the sisters, becomes an unwitting accomplice in dastardly machinations, the actor injecting a welcome dose of goofy humour. The things we do for love, eh?

Scarlet blouses worn by Ana and Nan are emblematic of a central pairing who may display sultry innocence to co-workers but who certainly have hidden thorns. One driven by love and admiration, the other by bitterness, jealousy, even rage, seams of a watertight plan begin to fray and tempers run high, Stewart effectively portraying a widening chasm between the sisters in terms of intention, motivation and characteristics. Hers is an impressively composed and remarkably well maintained performance. A thumping score which reverberates with almost a centrifugal force adds a mesmerizing aural layer to striking visual compositions and a film which, but for a few slight lags in pacing, is a thoroughly engaging watch.

Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens


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