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APPLES (2020) review

July 1, 2022


written by: Christos Nikou and Stavros Raptis
produced by: Iraklis Mavroeidis, Angelos Venetis, Aris Dagios, Nikos Smpiliris & Christos Nikou
directed by: Christos Nikou
rated: not rated
runtime: 90 minutes
U.S. release date: June 24, 2022 (New York & Los Angeles) & July 1, 2022 (Renaissance Place 5, Chicago, IL) 


Pandemic stories have been showing up in movies well before COVID-19. From zombie apocalypses to a viral outbreaka, they can be expansive thrillers or provocative character studies that find us wondering what we would do in such dire situations. Some of the more fascinating approaches to the subject have been stories in which certain senses such as sight (“Blindness”) or smell (“Perfect Sense”), have mysteriously and randomly disappeared. “Apples” is a Greek production that takes a similar approach, positing what it would be like if humans suddenly started losing their memory.

All five senses are still intact and there doesn’t seem to be anything visibly wrong from the outside, but internally their identity is disappearing or is altogether gone. Who knows why or for how long, not to mention what to do about it.

It’s a fascinating concept that co-writers Christos Nikou and Stavros Raptis ask us to consider and Nikou, who makes his directorial debut with “Apples”, offers a meditative and somewhat quirky look at the benefits and disadvantages of losing and/or regaining one’s memory.



In the world Nikou and Stavros have created, the government in Greece has developed a plan to address those individuals who wake up one day, walk out of their home and are unable to recall who they are. That’s what happens with our bearded protagonist Aris (Aris Servetalis), who becomes one of many of the “unclaimed” patients at the New Identity health program funded by the government. Imagine someone sitting on the side of the road, looking lost with no ID on them and no recollection of who he/she is. Service workers with the New Identity program will bring them to an inpatient facility where they will be cared for by members of the Disturbed Memory Department (great name!) and stay for a certain period of time, with the hope that a loved one will claim the lost soul. Subverting our expectations, those in the position of power have actually implemented a humane approach to such a dilemma.

The last thing Aris remembers is picking up some flowers and hopping on a bus and then he is told he was found at the end of that bus line, not knowing who he is or why he’s there. All he knows is he really likes the taste of apples. Did he like them before? It’s unclear to us and him. He asks his assigned roommate one night if he likes apples and he responds with, “I don’t remember if I like them,” which is a hauntingly dry reply.

Aris and other “unclaimed patients” are given food and shelter at the facility, but when no one comes for them, they are released and set up with furnished apartments (even a closet full of clothes) and given certain instructions akin to homework. Aris listens to tape recorded messages from the two Program Managers – one warm (Anna Kalaitzidou) and another cold (Argyris Bakirtzis) – who assign him tasks to complete that require taking Polaroids to provide proof they were accomplished. Some of the instructions are understandably designed to get Aris reacquainted with the world around him (like “go ride a bike” or “drive a car”) or social settings (“go to a costume party”) and much of these scenes are some of the film’s best moments as we watch an adult re-experience activities for the first time. Feelings of nervousness and excitement normally associated with experiencing these activities for the first time at a young age now seem to be replaced with a self-conscious awkwardness as Aris navigates these actions with no frame of reference…like a brother from another planet.

Other instructions Aris receives are oddly suspiciously and morally questionable, such as when he is told to, “Meet a girl in a bar, have sex with her in the bathroom, and then leave without saying goodbye.” While the former instructions seem like practical exercises to reintegrate back into society, these specifics seem to have more emotional & psychological ramifications with an uncertainty as to what type of person these Program Managers are trying to shape. We never see the Program Managers have discussions with each other about the ultimate goal of these instructions or lay out any other kind of endgame with the “unclaimed” patients.



Throughout all these exercises, Aris remains quiet and detached and one wonders if he was like this even before the amnesia. There’s a gradual change however when he meets Anna (Sofia Georgovassili), an extrovert who is also going through the same program, snapping Polaroid snapshots of the world around her with childlike naivete and collecting them in a scrapbook like an archeologist discovering a new culture. In any other film, these two would meet-cute and begin blossom in a formulaic on-again/off-again relationship, but Nikou and Stavros are more interested in showing how different two people are who given the same instructions. Of course, the fact that these two meet in a movie theater where “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (the 1974 original) is playing reiterates how “Apples” isn’t concerned with following any kind of tried-and-true formula and that’s refreshing. You truly will not see where this story is going.

The character of Aris is something of an enigma even before he loses his memory and Servetalis plays the character in such a wholly absorbing manner. When we first see him, he’s repeatedly hitting his head against the wall of his Athens flat. Maybe this is a guy who really needs to start anew. Surely, that’s something all of us have thought about at some point in life. Nikou thankfully prefers to have viewers come to their own conclusions about Aris. Speaking of conclusions, “Apples” eludes to an intriguing consideration as the film ends, which is whether or not missing memories are worth regaining.

“Apples” was Greece’s official entry to the 93rd Academy Awards. It was also an official selection at Telluride Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival back in 2020. It is finally seeing a theatrical run, starting June 24th and expanding throughout the month of July.

SIDE NOTE: Cate Blanchett serves as an uncredited executive producer for “Apples” and you can find that story here. 








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