The Library Suicides

Things turn bad at a leisurely pace in Wales, but they get really bad. Measured and formally precise, with distinctive wry humour, The Library Suicides is a welcome change from the usual strand of brooding, realist British thriller. Featuring a small cast and set almost entirely within the halls of the National Library of Wales, this compact Welsh-language adaptation of Fflur Dafydd's bestselling novel Y Llyfrgell, uses its limited box of tools to construct a stellar revenge story.

Identical twin sister archivists Nan and Ana (Catrin Stewart) dedicate their lives to maintaining the legacy of their mother's work, an author of a number of popular Welsh novels. When their mother appears to commit suicide rather than live with her dementia, jumping from her window, the twins arrive only in time to hear her last words. They're shocked to hear her implicate her biographer, Eben (Ryland Teifi), so the grieving twins formulate a fitting revenge. Things start to go awry from there, especially when slacker security guard Dan (Dyfan Dwyfor) gets in their way.

The first feature from director Euros Lyn (known previously in television for Doctor Who, Broadchurch, and the wonderful Fifteen Million Merits episode of Black Mirror), The Library Suicides showcases his exceptional ability to turn the familiar strange. With great economy, Lyn artfully utilises the architecture and functionality of the library for mystery, claustrophobia, and unique set pieces.

It's become de rigueur to praise the talents of an actor who creates distinct characters while playing identical twins, but Stewart deserves it. The way she subtly develops the twins different identities - the contrast becoming a key source of tension - is worth particular praise.

With so much to recommend, it comes as a great shame that the final minutes of The Library Suicides mar the previous smart restraint and strange, almost fairytale ambiguity by spelling out exactly how the audience should interpret events. I presume the book on which it is based makes the same mistake, but perhaps that part should have been ripped out rather than archived here. Still, the journey to that point keeps this highly recommended.

Yoga Hosers

I had this crazy dream. A plucky New Jersey geek with ambition in his head, and passion in his heart sold his beloved comic-book collection, and maxed out some credit cards, to produce a smart, sharp and creatively crude little-indie-that-could, wowing audiences and critics around the world. I guess I should stop eating cheese and smoking crack before bed.

Kevin Smith seems dead set on nuclear self-destruction. After watching his latest disaster, I say good riddance. Slackly cartoonish - very much in the 'limited animation' sense - Yoga Hosers is a half-arsed cobbling together of tragic shock-value and teen-speak humour, first draft plotting and character development, and unimaginative, vapid world-building.

Following two shallow but sweet Canadian convenience clerk besties, both called Colleen (Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp), Yoga Hosers swerves from yoga classes hosted by an angry instructor (Justin Long) called Yogi Bayer - yeah, like the Jellystone one - to an encounter with satanist senior students on the hunt for virgin victims, to an invasion of diminutive but murderous 'Bratzis' - diminutive Nazis, made from bratwurst, played by Smith himself.

The Bratzis are the product of a Nazi scientist who escaped from Germany and wound up cryogenically frozen underneath the Colleens' convenience store. To fight them, the girls team up with French-Canadian detective Guy Lepointe (the awful Johnny Depp). None of this matters. All this distracted mania reminded me of Gregg Araki's nutso goth trip The Doom Generation, the difference being that Araki has now grown up.

During Yoga Hosers, Smith puts a telling monologue in the mouth of the Nazi scientist. Having constructed his plan around destroying "critics" for some reason, the nazi rants and raves about how critics are just "haters" seeking to destroy that which they are unworthy of. Has Smith learned nothing from the similarly sad meta-textual whining from M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water? Perhaps he's confused, but to clear it up for him is simple: critics are suddenly haters, because you now make hateful rubbish.

When a critic declares something unfunny, there is an easy, casual riposte claiming absolute subjectivity in that regard. Okay, then, let me paint a picture. Towards the salivatory end, the Nazi scientist cries out in frustration, "Nein! Nein! Nein!... No, it's worse than nein! It's ten!" Look me in the eye and tell me that isn't objectively unfunny - I'll call you a liar. Around the same point, Smith literally repeats a joke - verbatim - that wasn't even funny earlier. The humour is consistently so painfully slipshod and lazy, that the idea it came from the same mind as Clerks - hell, even Clerks 2 - seems ludicrous.

I feel most sorry for Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp. Never trust your parents again. They put in spirited performances that are deserving of far better than the hand grenade Kevin Smith tosses their way. As for Johnny Depp's spine-splinteringly unfunny caricature Guy Lapointe, anyone who has seen Smith's Tusk will be keenly aware of the torture Depp provides. I will remark on his performance here only to say that I'm glad he's going through a terrible time in his life - that makes us even. Oh, and Jason Mewes (a.k.a. Jay) shows up for a bit, but apparently he knows better and quickly scarpers.

Shame on you, Kevin Smith. And shame on you, Edinburgh International Film Festival, for putting such tripe on your schedule - presumably just so you can get this empty hockey-jersey to be a celebrity guest. This UK premiere screening of Yoga Hosers accompanies an event, Kevin Smith: In Person, but it's time to ask, at this sorry stage of his career, what could anyone possibly learn from him?