Creators: Amanda Coe & Louise Doughty
Cast: Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin, Mark Bonnar
Running Time: 240 minutes, 60 minute episodes
A four-episode mini-series seems like a good amount of time to tell your story. It’s way longer than your average feature film but shorter that most television series out there at the moment, it nestles right in the middle there. When your plot revolves around murder and the mystery of that murder, you’re set to go. So, why does APPLE TREE YARD feel like a lot longer than four episodes?
Emily Watson plays Yvonne Carmichael, a geneticist who has a chance encounter with the aloof, darkly mysterious Mark Costley (Ben Chaplin) and immediately the two have relations, despite us knowing that Yvonne is married and has children. Nonetheless, the first episode progresses with her pondering questions about how she feels about this reckless act and it turns out that she kinda likes it. So far so…so. Then you’re hit with a unexpected ending to the first episode which immediately puts Yvonne in a comprising position about what she’s done and what’s just happened. Cool, let’s see where this goes.
It’s at this moment that APPLE TREE YARD really falters because it doesn’t capitalise on this very well. The subsequent episode slows down instead of increasing the tension, it doesn’t hold its cards close to its chest for as long as it can and only give you brief snippets of development as and when you need them. Director Jessica Hobbs is able to crank it back up a little as the series nears its end but it feels a little too late, especially when you’re already well established in your theory and really have no reason to think otherwise.
Instead of portraying Yvonne as someone we can never really trust, the script goes out of its way to overly portray her as a victim, which she most definitely is, but Coe tries to have her cake and eat it too in the series’ final moments. In this case it doesn’t work. That doesn’t really work when you’ve nailed your colours to the wall early on. Watson is great here, however, really shining in the last episode when she’s finally given a chance to go for it. Before that she’s reduced to voiceover which ponders Yvonne’s moral stance over the whole affair, as we see her sitting and not saying anything or looking scared most of the time.
APPLE TREE YARD boasts a good central performance by Watson who, when given the chance, really draws you in. The script, similarly, can you bring you in at times but it lets itself down early on which it can’t recover from.
APPLE TREE YARD is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 20th February by Arrow Films.