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The Apology

The Apology, 2022

Darlene (Anna Gunn) is preparing to host Christmas for her relatives. The holiday is a hard one, however, because it is the 19th anniversary of her daughter Sally's (Holland Bailey) disappearance. As a Christmas Eve snowstorm blows in, Darlene's brother-in-law, Jack (Linus Roache) unexpectedly arrives. At first claiming that he's there to patch up long-alienated feelings with the rest of the family, Jack soon reveals that he might know something about Sally's disappearance all those years ago . . .

This is a frustrating movie, because there were a lot of things I liked about it, and yet there is a fundamental flaw in the main dynamic between Darlene and Jack.

Gunn gives a really good performance as Darlene, a woman who has been worn down by years of worry and torment over the loss of her child. An alcoholic who was a serious drinker when Sally disappeared, she has been sober for almost 20 years. At one point, Jack asks her what would make her "whole" again. After thinking for a moment, Darlene answers that nothing could, not even the return of her daughter, because she has lost 20 years with her. At best, she can just hope that she has done everything she could to find her child.

Roache makes Jack very, very easy to hate. As he spoons out details of what he knows about what happened to Sally, he constantly centers the narrative on himself. He frames his motivations as benevolence----telling Darlene things she wants to know---but it's clearly something he's doing for himself. At times, this gives the film a darkly comedic tone. When a distraught, angry Darlene locks Jack in the cellar (the power is out), he yells up at her, "You can't leave me here! I get panic attacks! Panic attacks!".

But a fundamental problem with this movie is that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Jack claims to have been motivated by a recent interview Darlene gave, feeling that he needed to come clean about what he knows. But every word out of Jack's mouth and every action shows a person who is completely self-centered. Not for a single second do I believe that this man would actually feel guilt, much less risk his reputation by admitting to having done wrong. It would almost have made more sense of he was presented as a sociopath, taunting Darlene as part of a plan to kill her or something. But that's not the scenario. The film plays this as a genuine desire to confess, and it makes no sense with the character we see.

What really ends up saving the movie is Janeane Garofalo as Darlene's neighbor, Gretchen. She enters the film in the last act and becomes an ally and sounding board for Darlene. While Jack as a character doesn't feel real, Gunn and Garofalo have great chemistry and you instantly believe that these women are friends. There's something really great about how both women make this little eye-contact and shrug when Jack implies that Gretchen is actually gay and that's why she spends so much time with Darlene. These two people are clearly close, long-time friends and that grounds the last act.

Despite being on Shudder, this one feels like more of a drama/thriller. The performances are good, but the premise itself has some serious flaws. A decent last act keeps it afloat, but can't quite make it into something I'd strongly recommend.