THE APOLOGY. (2022) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ALISON LOCKE.
STARRING ANNA GUNN, LINUS ROACHE AND JANEANE GAROFALO.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I loved this Christmas horror movie, which is streaming now on Shudder. Darlene Hagen is played by Anna Gunn, who seems to be most popular for her role on BREAKING BAD. I admit I never watched BREAKING BAD. It came too soon after THE SOPRANOS for me to be ready to welcome another series into my life. Who am I kidding? It’s still too soon for me.
Anyway, Darlene is a recovering alcoholic whose teenage daughter Sally went missing about twenty years ago and was never seen again. Darlene, after having been to hell and back during these twenty years, finally feels ready to host Christmas for her family again.
She’s no longer married, so it’ll be her sister and her kids coming for Christmas dinner tomorrow. Darlene’s sparky best friend Gretchen from across the road (played by Janeane Garofalo, comedienne and actress; THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS), is cheerleading a nervous Darlene along every step of the way. Ms. Garofalo looks fantastic at whatever age she is now (fifty-eight, but she doesn’t look it!) and is my favourite character in the film.
Anyway, Gretchen has finished helping out at Darlene’s house with the cooking and baking and goes home for the night. It’s a snowy Christmas Eve. Both their houses are beautifully lit up for Christmas and the snow makes the whole landscape look like something off a gorgeous sparkly Christmas card.
The inside of Darlene’s house is charmingly festive-looking too. In fact, this here movie is as seasonal as DIE HARD, lol, just in case anyone was in danger of doubting this was a Crimbo movie; I know what you Christmas Movie Doubters are like. Don’t you start that shit with me!
So, Darlene is home alone, about ready to hit the hay so Santa can come down her chimney for his once-yearly treat, when two things arrive/happen at once. A, an upgrading of the snow-storm from picturesque to blizzard, and, B, a knock on the door that turns out to be Jack, her ex-brother-in-law. As he and her sister are split up now, Darlene feels a bit weird asking him in, but she can’t exactly leave him on the doorstep in the snow, either.
So, what the hell are you doing here on Christmas Eve, Jack? The little weasel (played by the son of William Roache, aka Ken Barlow on Coronation Street) tries to make out like this is supposed to be a lovely surprise for his ex-wife and kids, who are coming tomorrow for Christmas at Darlene’s.
It becomes quickly obvious, however, that Jack has more on his mind than chomping down on a few mince pies and pulling some crackers with his ex-missus. For one thing, why is he going on and on about how much Darlene has always meant to him? It’s Darlene’s sister he’s been married to, not Darlene.
And why, if his intentions are pure, why has he brought a gun and cable ties with him…? A rum cove if you don’t mind me saying. Who brings a f**king gun to Christmas dinner? A guest you do not want to invite to your home to pull your cracker, that’s who.
The rest of the movie involves a wild and violent cat-and-mouse chase throughout the huge old house, but, don’t worry folks, Darlene still finds time to play a bit of ice-hockey!
What is the secret Jack is trying to impart to her so urgently? And what he has got to ‘apologise’ for? And is it fair of him to expect a shell-shocked Darlene to pronounce and carry out the sentence herself? Self-serving and arrogant, and rotten to the care. That’s our Jack.
Darlene, on the other hand, is an extremely likeable character. It’s obvious that she still adores her daughter Sally, a budding musician, and that she’s spent these last twenty years keeping Sally’s ‘missing’ status to the forefront of her own and her friends’ and family’s lives.
She’s stapled ‘MISSING’ flyers to telegraph poles. She’s gone on local and even national media to talk about Sally. She now helps other people who have missing loved ones. She’s been a campaigner and a fighter and that most active and proactive of creatures, a mom whose child has gone missing and may be in danger/trouble. You can imagine her out on the highway in the snow, handing flyers to passing cars.
She’s always held out hope as well, hope that Sally is still alive. Hope that someone’s holding her against her will, maybe in the sex slave trade, and that she may someday escape and walk back through the door, like so many other female abduction victims have done in recent years. Jaycee Dugard. Natascha Kampusch. The three victims of Ariel Castro. Darlene names some of the ‘returned’ victims in the film in connection with her long-standing search for Sally.
It’s touched on in the film as well that Darlene is a recovering alcoholic, who actually nearly relapses in front of our eyes. It would not surprise us to hear that she started drinking as a result of Sally’s disappearance.
Did her drinking break up her marriage, of which we know little, of was it simply the disappearance itself? Many couples split up after a child goes missing, unable to bear either their own pain and guilt or the other parent’s.
THE APOLOGY is well made and plotted, and I don’t think it could really have been improved in any way, other than, at the end, to make Gretchen and Darlene realise they’ve been gay for each other the whole time and would like to get married in the New Year. They’d make a smashing, intelligent couple. And their coffee would always be delicious.