Review by Camden Ferrell
Christos Nikou is a Greek director who has worked on great modern films like Before Midnight and Dogtooth, and Apples is his first time directing a feature-length film. It had its premiere at the 2020 Venice Film Festival and has been a part of numerous festivals since then. It was also Greece’s official submission for the Best International Film category at the Oscars in 2021. The movie boasts an intriguing premise that reminds one of the films of his contemporary Yorgos Lanthimos. However, the movie mostly fails to capitalize on the potential of its captivating and fresh ideas.
In a world that is both familiar and alien to the viewer, we see an unknown and unpredictable pandemic that causes people to suddenly develop amnesia. Aris is a man who is plagued with such an affliction. To combat this amnesia, he finds himself enrolled in a program that aims to help him recover and build a new life. From here, we see as he goes on this journey as he confronts memory and identity in this truly unique story. One thing that can’t be denied is how original and exciting this premise is as well as the potential for exploration of deep themes that it has.
One is instantly reminded of the movies of Yorgos Lanthimos from the start, and while it possesses an eerily similar framework and style, it often fails to capture the sensibilities and nuances of his films. It has more in common with a movie like Alps, a flawed movie with a highly original premise, than a film like Dogtooth for example. The script, written by Nikou and Stavros Raptis, is intentionally minimal, and its lack of dialogue isn’t supplemented sufficiently with material to uphold its message and momentum.
Its performances are decent more than anything, but they fail to make an impression. It’s a very deadpan and dour film that doesn’t always make it easy to showcase great performances, and this ensemble can’t do much to stand out in this world that was created. There are a handful of good moments from this cast, but this movie doesn’t really offer them much depth in these roles to truly be memorable.
The one aspect of the movie that was truly impressive was its cinematography. While there might not have been substance in the film’s execution, Bartosz Swiniarski proves how talented he is behind the camera. He is able to capture and frame this story in a way that is visually stunning and engaging to watch from start to finish.
Apples might not be the best feature directorial debut, but it’s one that draws inspiration from great movies. The set up and premise is top notch, but the film ultimately lacks in establishing substance and meaning through its execution. The cinematography is stunning, and the originality is admirable, but not much else stood out to me in this movie.
Apples is in theaters June 24.