APPLE TREE YARD
UK, 2017, 220 minutes, Colour.
Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin, Mark Bonnar, Susan Lynch, Olivia Vinall, Stephen Elder, Jack Hamilton, Assad Zaman, Frances Tomelty.
Directed by Jessica Hobbs.
Screened as a miniseries, this film was based on a novel by Louise Doughty. Its focus is a middle-aged science researcher, played intensely by Emily Watson. The story is one of adultery and accusation of murder.
Emily Watson plays Yvonne, married to Gary (Scottish actor Mark Bonnar) with two adult children. Randomly, after a report to a Parliamentary hearing, she is invited by an alleged security man, literally tall dark and handsome, Mark (Ben Chaplin) to a tour of the chapel under Parliament house. There is an intense sexual encounter before she knows his name – later learning it but writing to him as Dear X. She keeps the affair to herself, meeting Mark more frequently, upset that her husband has been having a relationship with his assistant. Her daughter is pregnant. Her son is bipolar.
At an Institute party, she is raped by a colleague - the vivid presentation of the rape has great impact. She keeps this to herself, stating that she has some kind of control over it when nobody else knows. However, she does confide in Mark, he is upset, she drives him to the house of the attacker. Mark kills him in a rage.
Both are arrested for murder, separate defence lawyers. Yvonne’s husband is supportive. Mark, on the other hand, seems a lonely figure in the box, revelations about his life and mental condition indicating that he lives in something of a fantasy world. This is disillusioning for Yvonne but she is found out concerning her affair, an episode in a side street Apple Tree Yard.
Much attention is given to the aftermath of the verdict, Yvonne and her apology to her husband, the care of her daughter and grandchild, her writing to Mark, her visit to him in prison, his declarations of love and her realising his fantasy world.
This is a very good film for an adult audience, a reflection on adultery, mistakes, the need for affirmation – and the consequences of the decisions.
Direction is by New Zealander, Jessica Hobbs who made Curtin and Answered by Fire in Australia.
1. Made for television, miniseries, the effect of the series as a film?
2. The contemporary London settings, the House of Commons, the parliament buildings, the galleries, the basement and chapel? Homes? Workplaces and laboratories? Cafes and restaurants? The streets and the suburbs of London? Prison, the court? The musical score?
3. The title, small offstreet lane, the occasion, the revelation in the court? Yvonne returning and finding that it was closed for development?
4. The opening, Yvonne, her voice over, discovering her in custody? Her going to the court?
5. The flashbacks, revelation about Yvonne, revelations about Mark and yet his secrecy? The returning to prison scenes? The final part, court scenes and flashbacks?
6. Yvonne, scientist, qualifications, the Parliamentary report, her age, poise, the encounter with Mark, the offer of the tour, her reaction, attraction, the sexual encounter? The consequences? The continued meetings, at the cafes and their discussions, at the flat and the sexual encounters, the effect on her, her feeling that Mark brought her alive? Her
letters to him, Dear X…? Her self-revelation?
7. The reality of her life, the almost 30 years since meeting Gary, scientists, the initial attraction, marriage, her daughter, scientist, marriage, the meals and visits, her pregnancy, supported her husband? Her son, his being bipolar, the effect on his life? And the children communicating better with their father than with her?
8. Gary, the relationship with Rosa, his denials, his trips, her tantrum? His blaming himself? Yet the relationship continuing? Yvonne not telling him about herself?
9. Work, George, the meetings with him, on the board? The party, her going to visit Mark, Apple Tree Yard, drinking at the party, George and his flirting, advances? Her going with him? The graphic violence of the rape, communicating itself to the audience? The aftermath, in the taxi? Her numbed reaction? Her decision not to tell anyone? Her having that control over her life?
10. George, continuing communication, the bouquet and the note, the phone calls? Presumption about her? Her discussing this with Mark, his sympathy, anger on her behalf?
11. Mark and his decision, in the car, going to the apartment, the long time, his returning?
12. The police, the investigation, the arrest of Mark? Arresting Yvonne? Accusation of murder?
13. The effect on Yvonne, her relationship with her husband, his supporting her throughout the trial, a reconciliation? Her daughter and giving birth? The son and his eventually coming to the court?
14. The discussions with lawyers, council? Her not telling the truth? The repercussions of the revelation in court?
15. The trial, the two sitting near each other but apart? Mark and his head down? The prosecutor and the witnesses, Mark’s behaviour with the police officer at work, sexual? The discussions about his psychological condition? Mental illness or not? The harsh treatment of witnesses by the lawyers? Yvonne’s reaction to the story is about him and their being revealed?
16. The advice to Yvonne to make a good impression, the continued look at the lawyers, the jurors, the journalists on their computers?
17. Yvonne being interrogated, her lies about her relationship with Mark, the revelation about Apple Tree Yard? Her humiliation? The effect on her husband? Her continually being supported by her friend, the discussions, the interview with her after the revelations?
18. The effect of the court case? The jury, Mark not guilty of murder but of manslaughter? Yvonne not guilty, her going out free?
19. The film giving a lot of attention to the post-verdict experiences? Yvonne and her relationship with her husband, his hesitation, the birth of the baby, the welcome of her children, her holding the baby with her husband? The letter to Mark, the explanation of what the relationship meant to her? Visiting him in prison? Her wondering about the truth,
his talk, supportive, yet the diagnosis of his being the hero of his own story, creating his own story and Yvonne realising this?
20. The story of a woman in mid-life, the crisis, its effect on her, deceit, the consequences?