VOD film review: Apples
Bianca Garner | On 07, May 2021
Director: Christos Nikou
Cast: Aris Servetalis, Sofia Georgovassili
Where to watch Apples online in the UK: MUBI UK / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
We have all heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor at bay”.In fact, apples are considered a super fruit and some studies have shown that they may even lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Throughout literature, the apple has always been seen as a symbol of knowledge as well as greed, beauty and sin. All these elements play a role within Greek director Christos Nikou’s debut feature film, Apples, with a premise that feels incredibly timely. Nikou’s direction is surreally subdued, like the weird offspring of fellow Greek directors Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari. However, the film feels a little underwhelming and lacks a certain spark.
Apples takes place in a world where there’s been an unexplained and sudden rise in cases of amnesia. The news reports are oddly reminiscent of the coronavirus pandemic. We open with quick shots of an apartment, where we see what looks like a woman’s belongings, and a banging sound can be heard off-screen. The sound is coming from a man called Aris (Aris Servetalis) who is banging his head against the wall. We see him sitting in a chair looking at his bed, then we cut to him sitting on the sofa listening to the news. It would appear that the world is falling apart inside his apartment and outside too.
Aris goes about his day, stopping to greet his neighbour and their dog and passing a traffic jam that has been caused by a man who has been struck by this amnesia. Things seem pretty normal with Aris: he buys some flowers and gets on a bus. Then, we cut to him asleep on the bus with the driver waking him asking him where he wanted to get off. “I can’t remember,” replies Aris. It would appear that he has been struck by this pandemic. As he has no identification, nor any loved ones to claim him, he’s sent to the nearby neurological hospital, where doctors working in the Disturbed Memory Department have developed an experimental technique to help patients begin a new life. Aris is now referred to as “14842”, a chilling reminder that this amnesia is occurring on an epic scale. Once he’s released, he must follow out the instructions sent to him by the doctors and take selfies of him performing tasks such as riding a bike and catching a fish.
Apples has an interesting premise and one cannot help but be drawn into this mystery. However, if you’re seeking a clear-cut conclusion or explanation as to what is happening with the amnesia outbreak, then you may be left disappointed. Both Nikou and co-writer Stavros Raptis are more concerned with creating an aura of mystery and leaving it up to the viewer to reach their own conclusion, rather than creating a neatly tied-up ending.
At times, the film slips into the realms of absurdist comedy, especially when it comes to the tasks that the memory department has created for their “learn how to live” rehabilitation programme. However, there is also a hint of something sinister to the doctors who keep turning up to observe Aris and a fellow patient (Sofia Georgovasili). The voice on the tape who provides them both with instructions seems distorted and the tasks they have to conduct push the boundaries (getting into a car crash, sleeping with a stranger, befriending a dying person). The film could have easily been a more traditional sci-fi/dystopian thriller and perhaps if it had then it would have been a far stronger film in terms of writing and narrative.
Apples doesn’t quite know what genre it wants to be. With the introduction of the female amnesia patient, you would assume that the film would suddenly shift gear and become a romantic drama, but this isn’t the case. Both Servetalis and Georgovasili have wonderful on-screen chemistry and their characters have interesting and compelling dynamics, with Servetalis being the more uptight and rigid of the two and Georgovasili being more relaxed and free-spirited. As there are so many ideas being explored within such a short running time, though, the film doesn’t fully explore their budding relationship, which is a crying shame.
While the actors give superb performances, and the film is masterfully shot by cinematographer Bartosz Swiniarski, Apples just feels like a half-baked concept. This is a mishmash film that starts off intriguing but drifts apart by the end. It’s a shame, but it still acts as a promising debut for Christos Nikou.
Apples is now available on MUBI UK, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription.