Synopsis: Twenty years after the disappearance of her daughter, recovering alcoholic Darlene Hagen is preparing to host her family’s Christmas celebration when her estranged ex-brother-in-law arrives unannounced, bearing nostalgic gifts and a heavy secret.
Stars: Anna Gunn, Linus Roache, Janeane Garofalo
Director: Alison Star Locke
Running Length: 91 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: For me, the biggest test of a mystery or high-tension thriller is how well it holds up once it starts to reveal its secrets. If it’s a corker, it can keep going on the built-up strength of the steel trap it set for its audience, refusing to let go. The weaker ones only show they were merely treading water from the beginning and quickly find they can’t keep their head above the waves they created, eventually drowning under the weight of a back half they can’t support.
Written and directed by Alison Star Locke, The Apology might be one of the most disappointing thrillers I’ve seen lately, primarily because there is so much promise in the premise. Here we have an isolated home on a snowy night before Christmas when evil tidings from the past come to haunt a woman (Anna Gunn, Sully) continuing to grieve her daughter’s disappearance two decades before. Her long-absent brother-in-law (Linus Roache, Non-Stop) unexpectedly turns up bearing wrapped gifts and offering a present for her, a present involving information she’s been waiting years to receive.
I’ll let you guess what he might have to share, but I bet you can discern that it sets into motion a battle of wills between the two that occupies much of the 91-minute run time. Unfortunately, while Locke was lucky to nab the underappreciated Gunn for the lead, she’s paired her with the less intriguing Roache for an overly talky two-hander that goes nowhere fast. Despite having a best friend played by an oddly muted Janeane Garofalo (The God Committee), a hop, skip, and a jump away, most of The Apology is just Gunn and Roache trading power positions. And it’s sadly weak.
Letting the cat out of the bag so early damages what little goodwill The Apology had going for it. Despite the ideal locale and major potential for something special, this is a present you’ll want to re-wrap and pass along to someone else.