Review: Apples

I’ll get the Yorgos Lanthimos connection out of the way immediately: director Christos Nikou was second assistant director on Dogtooth; actor Aris Servetalis appears in both Lanthimos’s Kinetta and Alps; and the idea of hospitals full of “unclaimed amnesiacs” more than slightly resembles the characters in the singles’ hotel in The Lobster. But Apples is better than any of the Lanthimos’s I’ve seen so far: which isn’t a compliment to Nikou. The director’s debut follows Aris (Servetalis), a man who has seemingly succumbed to a pandemic of amnesia causing a spike of cases in Athens. Since no family have come to his side, he’s initiated as part of the “New Identity” programme, in which he’ll be given a range of tasks by his doctors, delivered via an analogue answering machine (the film’s refusal to disclose its temporal setting will become important), the undertaking of which he must document with a Polaroid and arrange in the pre-digital Instagram page of a photo album. So far, so cloying. But it only gets worse. Apples works by halves; the film wants to be sad and funny, induce a laugh and a pang of melancholy in the same action, and ends up being not half so funny nor half so sad as it would like to be. There’s a trying sketch-comedy vibe to some of the film’s movements: a quick visual gag about windshield wipers; a bit on a swimming pool diving board that’s sub-Mr. Bean; an image of Aris in a fancy dress astronaut suit—the whole comedic arsenal of the film rests upon a series of underperforming counterpoised incongruities. At least Servetalis is an elegant camera-subject: his blank expressions, trimmed beard and long legs make him a good fit for the film’s tall and narrow frame, as he has a tall and narrow frame himself. But a surprising scene of twisting aside, I can’t see much here. The film’s disquisition on the absurdities of social media, on the ethics of identity-formation in such circumstances, is pat in the extreme: yes, removing the internet makes the structure of Aris’s interactions look odd; yes, doing just to document does not a full experience make—but when hasn’t sociability been a puzzle? Tellingly, the film does not maintain its line of enquiry, absconding and attending to a suggestion in a number of smaller moments that the film’s real subject is buried elsewhere. If allegories are two stories told at the same time, Apples fails them both. 

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