Darkest Miriam

Tribeca 2024: Darkest Miriam Explores Grief, and Those Moments Where We Feel Stuck

There’s something relatable about those times when we feel listless, stuck, or unable to move forward. Sometimes, this is a response to a sudden loss or a not-so-sudden life experience, but most of us have been there at one time or another, at that place where forward momentum seems impossible to generate. From director Naomi Jaye, Darkest Miriam tells the story of a person in just such a place. 

Miriam, played by Britt Lower (Severance), is a librarian working at a small branch of the Toronto Public Library. She spends each day the way a librarian might, re-shelving books and helping the cast of characters who frequent the branch while in a fog of initially undefined grief. Occasionally, something extraordinary happens at the branch. Not exciting per se, just extraordinary for a library, and Miriam must fill out an incident report. In one such report, she notes that an unusually pale female patron accused a man of hitting her and then stole some dentures.  In another, a man had set books upright as a screen and left behind a “sticky mess”. Each report is written with impeccable penmanship and style and filed away for nothing to happen.

Darkest Miriam
Tom Mercier and Britt Lower in Darkest Miriam

This is the pattern in her life until she meets a young man called Janko (Tom Mercier), who frequents the same park where she takes her lunch breaks.  They strike up a conversation and then a love affair, and Miriam begins to open up.  At the same time she begins to find vaguely threatening letters hidden in books around the library, letters that seem to be to her, or at least about her, despite having no addressee.  

Darkest Miriam tells the kind of story you’ve seen before, in which a person mired in their day-to-day becomes unstuck by way of a new relationship. In order to make this kind of story work, the actors must bear the weight of the story, and thankfully, both Lower and Mercier are up to the task.  Lower’s awkward but caring presence around the library is low-key wonderful, and once she starts to come out of her shell, it’s impossible not to root for her. 

Mercier is just as good as the younger Janko, a man who seems attuned to her needs specifically. Rather than coming off as convenient; he comes off as a genuinely good person and partner—a difficult needle to thread for a script that is walking the knife edge of tweeness. Both of them give honest and vulnerable performances that require them to figuratively and literally bare all, and they’re wonderful to watch together. 

Tom Mercier and Britt Lower in Darkest Miriam

One of the film’s other standout features is its stunning cinematography. Director Naomi Jaye and cinematographer Michael LeBlanc have crafted a distinct visual style that makes the world of the film feel mildly whimsical and grounded at the same time and, as a result, entirely relatable. From the detailed incident reports to the intimate character moments, every frame is gorgeous and keeps the audience firmly rooted in the world and with the characters. 

If Darkest Miriam has a flaw, it might be that at 90 minutes, it feels a little too long. Like a short film that has been stretched out to a target runtime but without quite enough to fill it. Still, the film is well-acted and beautiful, so this is a minor complaint. For some, it may leave you wanting more, but for those in the audience who connect with Miriam’s story, they will connect deeply and meaningfully. 

Darkest Miriam premiered at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival. Head here for more reviews from this year’s screenings.

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