Multiple fall film festivals featured Apples (Mila), a directoral debut from Christos Nikou, who also co-wrote and produced the film. Submitted as the Best International Feature Film from Greece for the Oscar race, it has an unusual plot device. Described as a surreal and beguiling deadpan comedy, Apples has a mysterious amnesia pandemic sweeping the globe. The only hope for those afflicted is an unusual recovery program that guides patients in constructing new identities from scratch. It seemed like the kind of quirky film that I’d find charming. Little did I know that I’d find a film from Canada at another festival with a very similar plot.
Little Fish (Chad Hartigan), is a US/Canadian film selected for the Denver Film Festival (DFF43). Described so similarly to Apples, I was intrigued. “Imagine waking up in a world where a pandemic has broken out, which strikes with no rhyme or reason, and causes its victims to lose their memories. Imagine waking up and not remembering the person you love. This is the world that newlyweds Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) find themselves in, not long after meeting and falling in love. When Jude contracts the disease, the young couple will do anything to hold onto the memory of their love.”– from the DFF program description
Oddly enough, it wasn’t till after seeing Little Fish that I realized how similar the plot device was in both films. I expected to see films that reflected our strange Pandemic times but memory loss? Is it because we’re all ready to put these times behind us and forget the stress and horrific loss of life? The films are about as different as two films that share a central concept can be. One is pitched as a dark comedy in the flavor of Lobster (another Greek off-kilter film). Where Apples is odd and quirky, Little Fishes is melancholic and tender. While both films could be classified as science fiction, Apples feels the most “foreign” with the central character dressed in high-water pants and an outlandish space costume.
The production design in Apples is beautiful. There were many scenes that seemed staged like paintings–a tableau of grief and loss. There’s an odd relationship between the two central characters, Aris (Aris Servetalis) and Anna (Sofia Georgovassili). Every interaction feels stilted and unnatural. As their actions are being dictated by instructions from their therapists, that makes sense but it creates an unease and tension. The relief of the denoument was considerable as I feared that one of them might be killed or act even more irrationally. The film ends where it began with Aris now returning home to face a bitter truth.
The central relationship in Little Fish is a romance. There are more characters and the setting is more familiar and contemporary even as the action careens into medical horror territory. As scenes of protesters anxious for treatment fill the screen, there’s the reflection of our current need for a COVID-19 vaccine. Fortunately, most of the action is set in the couple’s home. There’s a flashback to their dates, moving in together and a wedding. And in the present, this young couple struggles to deal with encroaching memory loss and how to hold unto their knowledge of who they are and how to navigate daily life. The film ends like it began, with a meet-cute involving a dog…only now we know that neither of them realize it’s their dog or that they’re a married couple.
Drink With Films Rating
Apples (Mila): 3 1/2 glasses of Greek wine, stressful and quirky, I found it lovely to look at and cringe-worthy for it’s uncomfortable main character.
Little Fish: 4 hipster craft beers, great chemistry between the actors in a tragic romance.