Anna Gunn plays Darlene, a woman whose daughter went missing 20 years ago. After a long day of preparations to host Christmas Day with the help of her adoring neighbor and best friend, Gretchen, a knock on the door changes the trajectory of her night and life. Darlene enters a fight for truth and revenge. Writer-director Alison Star Locke challenges audiences to contemplate grief, unresolved trauma, and guilt in an explosive confrontation of a survivor’s deepest fantasies.
Locke’s script sets a solid pace, with details of her daughter’s disappearance slowly revealing themselves, unrequited love, past regressions, and secrets boiling over. Darlene’s ex-brother-in-law lands on her doorstep under the guise of a surprise family reunion, but his ulterior motive involves a revelation in Sally’s case. The information he’s been sitting on as Darlene relentlessly searched for Sally, became an advocate for other families, and got her alcoholism under control. The rage and fear evolve into a knockdown, drag-out fight between redemption and revenge.
Compounded by the raging snow outside, any turmoil coming from the house is more than muffled. This simple device proves to be a wonderful segway for Gretchen to reenter the story. Janeane Garofalo nails this role. She’s funny, down to earth, and perfectly wonderful. Her iconic snark lies underneath the surface of a woman whose love for Darlene surpasses all things. Linus Roache plays Jack with a presumptuous air that comes off as slimy immediately. His arrogance and bulldozing persona make him punchable, which is how Locke meant for him to come off. The smugness makes your blood boil. Anna Gunn‘s turn as Darlene is rife with hurt and drenched in melancholy. Her scenes with Roache are tense.
Here is where I felt like The Apology missed the mark. The film hinges on Jack and Darlene’s dynamic. Locke gives them a juicy backstory. Somehow the level of intensity from Gunn and Roache was at an 8 when it needed to be at a 10. That extra oomph of passion and terror (or lack thereof) kept me with one foot in disbelief and one foot firmly intrigued. I wanted to jump over that threshold, but I never got there. The screenplay had all the makings of the success of films like An Eye For An Eye. I’m not sure why this happened. We all know Gunn is a spectacular actress, but it didn’t go far enough. I hate it when my bullshit meter lights up.
THE APOLOGY will surely capture your attention. Those who live and breathe true crime these days will undoubtedly wish this scenario on every family member left to wonder what happened to their loved one. Hopefully, the story is enough to keep audiences satisfied.
THE APOLOGY will be in theaters and streaming simultaneously on Shudder and AMC+ on December 16th.
DIRECTOR: Alison Star Locke
WRITER: Alison Star Locke
CAST: Anna Gunn, Linus Roache, Janeane Garofalo
SYNOPSIS: Twenty years after the disappearance of her daughter, recovering alcoholic Darlene Hagen (Anna Gunn) is preparing to host her family’s Christmas celebration with her best friend Gretchen (Janeane Garofalo). Late Christmas Eve, Darlene’s estranged ex-brother-in-law, Jack (Linus Roache) arrives unannounced, bearing nostalgic gifts and a heavy secret. Soon, Darlene finds herself caught between reason and ruthless instinct. Trapped together by a dangerous storm, a battle of wits escalates to a violent game of revenge.
RUN TIME: 91 minutes
RATING: Not Rated
DISTRIBUTOR: RLJE Films/Shudder