After a celebrated author seemingly commits suicide, her twin daughters Ana and Nan plot the revenge killing of the man she used her dying breath to identify as her killer. They plot to stage the nocturnal murder at the National Library of Wales where they work, a gargantuan structure with plenty of private reading rooms where dark deeds can be carried out unseen. Their plot is a simple one with little that could conceivably go wrong, but in keeping with Robert Burns’ famous maxim on the unreliability of forward planning, before long the girls are forced to frantically improvise if they want to see their vengeance through to its conclusion.
Identical twin characters can sometimes be an iffy character choice, as their characterisation often perpetuates the erroneous and unreasonable belief that they are merely a duplicate of the same person. While Ana and Nan start out as almost entirely indistinguishable – matching hairstyles, dressing the same and their movements eerily synchronised in a seamless and oddly hypnotic flow – as the film progresses they soon become distinct individuals rather than a sororal dyad.
Ana is revealed as the more sympathetic of the pair, in touch with her emotions to a far greater extent and begins to question the morality of what they’ve decided must be done. Nan, meanwhile, grows far more ruthless in seeing their task through to its bitter end, hunting her quarry through the library’s labyrinthine corridors, the click of her heels echoing ever closer with the heralding inexorability of the Terminator’s scraping limp. It’s a testament to the subtlety of Catrin Stewart’s dual performance that she can tease out distinctive personalities without requiring any overt character traits to differentiate the sisters.
As the truth behind events is gradually revealed, the film begins to feel like something akin to a modern day gothic tragedy, the vast deserted expanse of the library with its dark shadows and endless looping passageways substituting beautifully for an isolated mansion or mysterious castle. The building’s countless shelves and stacks, containing centuries-old manuscripts and rare texts from the world over, practically radiate the history contained within their pages, invoking the best of the subgenre by juxtaposing the traditional and the modern. The female protagonists are a neat variation on the classical brooding hero, and the plot revolving around the bonds of family and the justifiability of vengeance have roots in the best of gothic tradition.
The Library Suicides offers a bleak look at the human condition, but still shines with a glimpse of light offering a way out. The story doesn’t judge the sisters for their actions, and asks whether or not we would be capable of doing the same when placed in the same position, and also to decide for ourselves which choice is a good or bad thing.
THE LIBRARY SUICIDES / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: EUROS LYN / SCREENPLAY: FFLUR DAFYDD / STARRING: CATRIN STEWART, DYFAN DWYFOR, RYLAND TEIFI, SHARON MORGAN / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 5TH
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10