REVIEW: ‘Apples’ (2020) a Wonderfully Absurdist Take on Human Existence

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Apples is a film that’ll linger in your memory, even long after you’ve forgotten its name.”

Apples, directed by Christos Nikou and written by Nikou and Stavros Raptis, is the Greek entry for Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. The film takes place in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that causes spontaneous amnesia. Simultaneously like and unlike our own world amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—albeit not intentionally a reflection of such—Apples is a wonderfully absurdist take on grief and human existence. 

The film follows Aris (Aris Servetalis), a middle-aged man who has contracted amnesia, as he participates in a recovery program for unclaimed patients. He is tasked with completing an increasingly absurd series of tasks and documenting them as a way to create a new identity for himself. This includes anything from riding a bike to intentionally crashing a car into a tree, though how these exercises are intended to spontaneously generate a new identity is purposefully obfuscated. Aris eventually meets unclaimed patient Anna (Sofia Georgovassili), and the two become close. As he gets further and further into his recovery though, it becomes clear that there is something larger than a simple case of spontaneous amnesia at work here—perhaps, he is running from something that he is not yet ready to face. 

One scene in particular stands out in Apples. Like the title suggests, apples play a symbolic role throughout the film. Aris is shown repeatedly cutting up apples, eating apples whole, and buying apples (practically in bulk, too). Regardless of his supposed memory loss, time and time again Aris shows a predisposition towards the fruit. Whatever the reason, whether he used to have some particular reason for eating them—like a bad stomach—or that they are simply just his favorite fruit, is never made any clearer beyond the fact that they are just simply important. The grocer at his local store observes Aris’s repeated apple purchases and strikes up a brief—though critically important—conversation with him. “They also say they’re good for the memory. But people don’t buy them,” he says. And with that, Aris puts the apples back and buys oranges instead. 

Aris is but one man trying to forget something painful in a world of people who are suffering each and every day. How does our grief shape us? How does it bury us? How does it reveal us? These are all questions that Apples considers, though the answers remain as uncertain by the end of the film as they were when it started. Ultimately, Aris chooses to confront the loss that he had suffered and returns home, a bowl of apples waiting for him in the kitchen. More than half of them have gone bad, bruised and rotting. But one is still good, and it is this apple that Aris sits down to cut and eat as the film ends. He will let himself remember now, though what this means—if it means anything at all—is for the audience to decide.

Complete with beautiful cinematography and actors that rather masterfully lean into the film’s central premise, Apples is a timely and poignant film about memory, identity, and loss. While it was ultimately not nominated for the 93rd Academy Awards, Apples is a film that’ll linger in your memory, even long after you’ve forgotten its name.

Directed By: Christos Nikou

Produced By: Cate Blanchett, Coco Francini, Nikos Smpiliris, Andrew Upton

Cast: Aris Servetalis, Sofia Georgovassili, Anna Kalaitzidou, Argyris Bakirtzis, Kostas Laskos

Featured Image Courtesy of Boo Productions