Library Hours

By Jim Vendiola | Romance
A recent widow falls into a strange courtship with her dead husband's first wife.

Camille is a recent widow who decides on a whim to write to her dead husband’s first wife, a librarian named Delphine.

A tentative set of messages begins to escalate into a strangely bewitching long-distance courtship that captures both women’s imaginations in unexpected ways. And when they finally meet, they feel a haunting connection and open up a space to explore their deepest desires.

This distinctive, elegantly transgressive romantic short — written and directed by Jim Vendiola and produced by Laura Day — exists in the space of reveries and daydreams. It takes many traditionally luxurious symbols of romance and puts them in service of a seemingly unconventional relationship.

The first part of the film functions like a collage, cutting between the two women in their respective settings, creating lovely portraits underscored by a beautiful, romantic musical soundtrack. One exists in a cloistered, rarefied space of luxury, the other a more modern, urban existence. As we hear their words to one another and watch these rhapsodic images unfold like a shimmering vision, we understand how a mutual fantasy is being woven between them.

When they come together, though, the story shifts out of its dreamlike state and gains forward momentum. Both women begin existing in the same time and place, and while there are moments of almost comical awkwardness, there’s also a strange tenderness and a tentative honesty. Until now, the film has built up a mutually spun fantastical duet, complete with the trappings of romance and glamour. Now, though, comes a point when those trappings must be shed and both must own up to what they really want from one another.

These desires are handled in the film with sensitivity and respect in their visual representation, and while it doesn’t shy away from the nature of their interaction, it pays equal attention to the flickers of thoughts and emotions of Camille and Delphine as much as it does the kinky details of their encounters. This approach yokes the action to character, and though the film exists much like a fantasy removed from the hustle and bustle of “reality,” it is emotionally grounded.

Camille and Delphine’s particular brand of excitement may not resonate in and of itself — everyone’s mileage varies, of course — but what will resonate in “Library Hours” is the joy and happiness in finding a mutually safe space to be honest about what they want. There may be some questions remaining at the film’s end — one wonders, for example, what each woman’s relationship to Alain, their former husband, was. But this film isn’t meant to be naturalistic. Instead, through its sensuous approach to craft and its dreamy tone and pacing, it encourages viewers to explore their deepest yearnings and fantasies — to daydream along, and be open to where such reveries land.

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