The Library Suicides (2016)

Rating: C+

Dir: Euros Lyn
Star: Catrin Stewart, Dyfan Dwyfor, Ryland Teifi, Sharon Morgan
a.k.a. Y Llyfrgell

The director’s name here caught my eye, because he’d been behind some memorable TV episodes: “Fifteen Million Merits” in Black Mirror; “The Girl in the Fireplace” for Doctor Who; bits of Broadchurch. This was his feature debut, and adding to the novelty, it was in Welsh. I don’t think I’ve seen a film made in Welsh ‐ rather than Wales – before. No particular reason, there just aren’t many: Wikipedia lists less than a dozen in the 21st century. I was braced for something along the lines of a well-remembered Blackadder quote: “Never ask for directions in Wales, Baldrick; you’ll be washing spit out of your hair for a fortnight.” Turned out no different from any other foreign-language movie, even if I never got any particular sense of Welshness. Which may have been the point.

It’s about twin sisters Ana and Nan (both played by Stewart), whose writer mother (Morgan) committed suicide by jumping from a window-ledge. Or did she? For her last words, whispered to one daughter, were “It was Eben,” an apparent reference to her biographer (Teifi). One night, Eben comes to the National Library of Wales, where the sisters work as archivists, to look through its collection of her papers, and the twins set in motion a plan to take revenge on the man who killed their mother. Or did he? Complicating matters further, a late shift change drops unsuspecting security guard Dan (Dwfor) into their way. It’s not long before things start to go a bit pear-shaped.

Unfortunately, as they do, so does the movie, with rather too many moments where events jerked me out of involvement. For example, Dan’s bizarre decision to switch all the lights off, when he suspects something is wrong. There’s also a scene where two characters have sex on the floor of the library which seemed to come out of nowhere, and it wasn’t clear to me until I read other reviews that Eben was a biographer. Perhaps this all made more sense in the book on which this was based? If so, we only have author Fflur Dafydd to blame, since he adapted his own work for the screen.

It’s a shame, since there’s also a lot to admire here, not least Stewart’s performance which, along with very solid technical elements, had me genuinely believing a pair of actresses were involved. There appear to be two distinct and separate characters here: Nan is much more committed to their murderous plot than Ana, and it feels almost as if there’s a left-brain/right-brain thing separating them. It’s certainly up there with Dual, in terms of excellent double portrayals seen recently. The internal corridors and halls of the library make for an atmospheric setting too, especially once the doors close for the night. Pity the script doesn’t live up to the other elements. It feels like a Welsh attempt at nordic noir, that ends up closer to a slice of leftover rarebit.