Apples Never Fall

A missing matriarch, a suspicious husband and their unlikeable offspring mark Liane Moriarty's trash telly mystery.

Meet the Delaneys.

They’re an affluent, dysfunctional upper middle-class family from Miami who have grown up in the competitive world of tennis.

Mom Joy (Annette Bening) and dad Stan (Sam Neill) have sold off their successful coaching clinic for retirement, while their adult children stumble on in their assorted careers and love lives.

Their world is in upheaval with the alarming disappearance of Joy, which Stan explains as a marital spat, insisting she will return when she calms down.

But the kids are not so sure.

Venture capitalist and hotshot son Troy (Jake Lacy), brother and marina staffer Logan (Conor Merrigan Turner), life coach sister Amy (Alison Brie) and therapist and gay sister Brooke (Essie Randles) are trying to fend off their worst fears: that dad may have had something to do with mom’s absence.

Conspiracy theories ramp up when Stan is inexplicably sporting a large cut to his face, prompting the kids to finally lodge a missing persons case.

But the plot comes with a sour backstory via a flashback where a mysterious woman, Savannah (Georgia Flood), lands on Joy and Stan’s doorstep having fled a domestic violence incident whilst travelling in a car with her partner.

A benevolent Joy eventually invites her to stay over, which as you might guess, leads to Savannah embedding herself as a long-term visitor and surrogate third daughter….

Make no mistake, the narrative of Apples Never Fall swings like a busy pendulum between the present and the past requiring some attention from the viewer as to when any given scene is taking place (rule of thumb: if Annette Bening is present, it’s probably a flashback).

Two detectives (Jeanine Serralles & Dylan Thuraisingham) are summoned to the scene and there are a range of peripheral characters in the lives of the children including Amy’s landlord Simon (Nate Mann), Brooke’s girlfriend Gina (Paula Andrea Placid), Logan’s partner Indira (Pooja Shah) and assorted neighbours largely to escalate the red herrings.

Unlike her previous work, Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty’s new mystery tale is littered with uninteresting characters who hit a lot of one-note tennis balls over the net.

Poor Sam Neill (who briefly acknowledges having moved to Florida from Queensland) is required to play the surly husband in order to point the finger of suspicion his way. The kids, who all take their mother’s absence far too belatedly, are an unlikeable bunch, but at least Aussie Conor Merrigan Turner holds his own alongside a top-heavy import cast.

So too does Georgia Flood, all grown up and very unrecognisable from her Tangle and House Husbands days. It’s as if she is channeling her best Laura Leighton Melrose Place work, charming her way into people’s lives without revealing her true character.

That sort of gives you a sense of where the series directed by Chris Sweeney lands: good trash telly. It falls far short of family crimes such as Bloodline or The Staircase in which the viewer is truly torn (and invested) as to the fate of the family matriarch. Instead we get clunky dialogue, logic potholes, and our sympathy failing to land on anyone of substance.

I’m also mindful that this is screening locally while a genuine and traumatic case of a missing mother is very real. As TV news reports a family and regional community is ripped apart, TV drama offers a melodramatic, sometimes histrionic, fictional alternative.

Filmed in Queensland, admirably doubling for Florida, Apples Never Fall promises much but struggles to reach its potential.

Apples Never Fall is now screening on Showcase / Binge.

7 Responses

  1. So, from the description, barely recognisable from the book? Not surprising after Moriarty’s two previous books were ruined in TV versions, mainly by inserting her iconic Aussie stories into American settings. Until someone will dramatise them properly, I will just continue to love her writing.

  2. Always loved Annette Bening, since her film Bugsy she did with now husband the one and only Warren Beatty (Oscars anyone? LOL!) Other good performances: The Grifters, Regarding Henry, The American President, The Siege, American Beauty, The Kids Are All Right, The Face Of Love, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool and Nyad.

  3. Too many shows rely on flashbacks and it’s so annoying, even worse when the characters look exactly the same 10 years earlier. Just a quick little on screen tag with “X years ago” or “year” makes all the difference.

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