Welsh cinema’s directing talent leaves something to be desired. Barring Peter Greenaway (at a push) and Gareth Evans, there haven’t been any visual mavericks or narrative outsiders to truly innovate the land of the rising valley. Compared to Scotland or Ireland’s filmic reputations, Wales can’t boast of a creative surge of talent. Bottleneck mystery ‘Library Suicides’ (‘Y Llyfgrell’), the debut feature from Euros Lyn, who’s previously worked on terrestrial monsters like ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Black Mirror’, seeks to change that.
The film is a faithful-to-the-themes adaptation of Fflur Dafydd’s novel of the same name, with a script by the author herself that tears up the original but ensures the core narrative of two vengeful sisters remains. Or as she puts it ‘I knew I had killed the absurdist, dystopian world of my creation. My creative appendix was well and truly dug out: I was covered in blood, wondering how to put myself back together again.’
The story follows a pair of twin sisters (both played by Catrin Stewart) grieving after the suicide of their beloved mother (Sharon Morgan), a cult author. Her biographer (Ryland Teifi) comes to visit the archive where the twins work and the two decide to confront him about the bizarre circumstances surrounding her death; a fall from a window ledge.
Having the same actor play opposing characters simultaneously has become a running gimmick, though Stewart allows for enough facial quirks to distinguish the two easily enough. Though the visual symmetry of the twins’ existence does grate after the sixth pained metaphor of the two being mirror images of each other.
Lyn’s TV background crosses over into his visual style, which makes it more TV functional than filmic feast at times. It’s not that shots don’t work, more that Lyn doesn’t allow himself enough room to visually diversify, though what is accomplished is reflective of the small-budget given to the film. Glancing at the source material’s backstory involving a dystopia where female authors rule and all male authors’ work had been burned, you can see how certain ideas had to be scaled down to their suspenseful basics.
Comparing the character development of the two sisters, it all becomes very uneven as the story progresses, relying on the good twin/ bad twin dynamic. Their motivation becomes a mystery in itself to piece together just how the two diverge so suddenly; one finding love in the most dire of circumstances whilst the other rejects the world’s ignorance for familial warmth. Taken as an escapist thrill however, the journey the two go on is never boring, even if the audience is kept in the dark as to the twins suspicions for the first half of the film.
Comically romantic relief comes in the form of a security guard who the twins work with/tolerate (Dyfan Dwyfor), in manic pixie dream-boy fashion he quotes The Beatles and throws out life lessons about embracing the world around them constantly. His brief snatches of levity help to pick up the pacing while his occasional gallows humour mixes well with his naive guard with ‘six months probation left’ schtick (it’s the new ‘one day till retirement’).
The reveal of the reason for their mother’s death unfolds in an intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying conclusion, more ‘huh’ than popcorn spewing gasp-worthy. The journey leading up to it provides most of the film’s thrill, the disturbance of their routine to enact their meticulous plan in pursuit of the truth and revenge.
The film’s strength is in how it mashes suspense and intrigue in equal measures, which boil up in unnerving tension, proving that Wales has more than just Charlotte Church to shout for it.
The Library Suicides is out on DVD now.