Some of my favorite genre films explore and reflect the human experience. Horror or thriller films that offer catharsis alongside shocks and scares are becoming more and more en vogue these days, and Alison Locke’s THE APOLOGY can be added to the list of films that accomplish this feat…for the most part.
The film centers around Darlene (Anna Gunn), who’s 19 years sober and grieving the 20th anniversary of her daughter Sally’s disappearance. She’s visited on Christmas Eve by an old friend, Jack (Linus Roache), and that’s all I’ll say about the plot.
This is a challenging script to work with for an actor. Anna Gunn, as Darlene, is presented with a different emotional response on practically every page of the text. The psychological gymnastics it must have taken to work through this performance is mind-boggling. Some scenes are more effective than others, but she delivers a strong, heartfelt performance that stayed with me even after the credits had rolled. Linus Roache, as Jack, faces a set of different challenges, and while he makes very specific choices throughout the film, they don’t all come off as genuine as they ought to. In a surprise dramatic (yet somehow still humorous) performance, Janeane Garofalo shows up as Darlene’s supportive and caring neighbor, Gretchen. It’s great to see her in a role like this.
The movie can be seen as a reflection of the #metoo movement, of the ways men and women communicate, what’s fair and what’s not, and the challenges women face in a “man’s world.” Without giving too much away, it successfully proves its point without beating the audience over the head with it. The sense of isolation within the blizzard-strewn home of our heroin adds tension and fuels our empathy for her.
Writer and director Alison Locke has created an intimate, jarring, unexpected thriller with an effective and memorable third act. The film runs a bit long, but the payoff is worth it. There are a couple of confounding character choices along the way, but they’re mostly forgivable as they keep the movie’s pace going. All in all, it’s a worthwhile experience for patient moviegoers.
THE APOLOGY is available to stream on Shudder.