It’s a big step for Darlene Hagen, her first time hosting the family Christmas in twenty years, the first time she has felt able to celebrate in some way since her teenage daughter Sally vanished, no trace ever found, no lead ever amounting to anything, no idea whether she is even dead or living some secret life in another place. The presents wrapped, the tree lit, she prepares to go to bed when there is a knock on the door.
Her sister’s ex-husband, Jack Kingsley, travelling ahead of time for the big day, has broken down and realised he was close to her house; the first time they’ve seen each other in nineteen years, after the shock and awkwardness Darlene realises she is happy to see him, but Jack is not there for small talk or happy reminiscences, probing her about what she would do if she were ever to find out what really happened that fateful day twenty years before, finally saying “there’s something that I never told you…”
The snow already laying thick outside and still falling, there is no escape for either Darlene or Jack who has come to make The Apology, written and directed by Alison Locke and starring Red State’s Anna Gunn as Darlene, sober for nineteen years but never so much in need of a hefty shot of vodka as now, and Mandy’s Linus Roache as Jack, with Janeane Garofalo as Darlene’s neighbour, best friend and partner-in-crime Gretchen.
Set in a single multi-level location, the basement office with only one exit a handy holding cell, and built almost entirely around the confrontation of the two principals, fighting through a torrent of emotions and seeking the high ground, morally and physically, The Apology could work equally well as a stage play, and there is much of William Mastrosimone’s Extremities in the conflict, the staging and the reversals of the balance of power.
Darlene believing that answers will give her comfort and closure, instead that belief is a dam she has built behind which lies an ocean of rage which Jack has unleashed; acting like he is the wronged party, the victim, that Darlene’s drinking was to blame for Sally drifting away and turning her back on her mother, the preconceptions of his toxic entitlement shrivel in the furnace of her righteous maternal wrath.
The trappings of Christmas offering no comfort, Darlene’s isolated home seeming like some perpetually icebound fortress in which she has existed in solitude for two decades, the simple premise means there are not many ways in which The Apology can unfold, all of them are bad, and carried by the performances Locke keeps the tension going until the final scenes as dawn rises over the emotional battlefield, the relief of the first light on a new day and the changes it brings.
The Apology is available on Shudder now