Twin sisters Ana and Nan (both played by Catrin Stewart) seek to avenge the disturbing death of their mother, renowned author Elena Wdig (Sharon Morgan) in this gripping Welsh thriller, filmed in the landmark building, The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
Based on Fflur Dafydd’s futuristic novel of the same name, Y Llyfrgell is an absorbing film in both its stylish visuals and compelling narrative. Ana and Nan are grieving young women seeking revenge against the man they believe murdered their mother. Eben (Ryland Teifi) arrives at the National Library to research Elena’s life as he plans to write her biography. Upbeat security guard Dan (Dyfan Dwyfor) gives him access to the archives but little do they know, the twisted twins have concocted a sinister plan to serve Eben his just deserts!
The National Library is a magnificent building, rich with history and plenty of uncovered secrets, making it the ideal setting for the subject matter. The location itself has an atmospheric presence and it’s certainly a place where you would not want to be locked in alone at night! The eerie atmosphere helps ramp up the tension and suspense as the plot unfolds.
The entire cast give powerful performances but it’s Catrin Stewart who steals the show in her dynamic performance as Ana and Nan. Taking on the role of two different people isn’t an easy task, however Stewart makes her characters convincing, playing Nan as stone hearted and Ana as the vulnerable one, seeming genuinely scared of the actions they plan to commit. She makes the relationship between the two sisters emotional and believable, leaving the audience eager to discover what lengths they will go for each other. Stewart is best known for playing Emma in the Sky One comedy/drama series Stella, she certainly proves her versatility as an actress with her gritty role in Y Llyfyrgell being a million miles away from the character she usually portrays.
Dyfan Dwyfor also stands out as Dan, bringing in some light relief amongst the dark tone. Dwyfor recently starred in Yr Ymadawiad playing a troubled character with a disturbing past. His character in Y Llyfrgell is completely different showcasing what a strong and talented actor he is. Dan is a character the audience can root for amongst the more harrowing moments.
Y Llyfrgell is layered with mystery so it’s certainly worth going in knowing very little about the plot. Fflur Dafydd has translated her novel to the big screen with an expertly crafted screenplay that’s full of intrigue. The novel is set in the not too distant future of 2020 and despite the film referring to 2016 as the present there is still a sense of surrealism to suggest this isn’t the world as we know it. The direction by Euros Lyn (Broadchurch, Happy Valley) is superb, the editing is slick making the film’s pacing perfectly polished. It packs in a great deal in its 87-minute run time without over complicating or compromising the narrative. It builds up the enigma which results in a satisfying twist that works exceptionally well. Despite its unnerving subject matter, Y Llyfrgell manages to capture the beauty of Aberystwyth, namely the promenade and constitution hill and of course the historic National Library itself which is just as much of a character in its own right.
Films like Y Llyfrgell are changing the face of Welsh language cinema, offering more accessible, modern material that’s both gritty and edge of the seat stuff. Wales has a dark heart within its history which will hopefully continue to be explored.
Y Llyfrgell has recently screened both in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Cinema and The Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.