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

Darkest Miriam

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.

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.