The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - FAR FROM THE APPLE TREE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [VOD] - FAR FROM THE APPLE TREE

far from the apple tree review
A young art student takes a job assisting a sinister visual artist.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Grant McPhee

Starring: Sorcha Groundsell, Victoria Liddelle

far from the apple tree poster

Opening with an inordinately long scene of a young woman perusing artistic photographs in an exhibition, and then becoming inexplicably obsessed with one of them, this movie lets you know from the outset that it does not intend following a regular narrative.

After the exhibition scene, the young protagonist then spends a good amount of time on her computer watching videos of the artist and her work, which is as interesting as it sounds.

The artist requests a coffee shop meeting, and our ingénue, Judith (Sorcha Groundsell), brings along her portfolio, assuming it is for a job. Apparently things are not that black and white though as the artist spends the time insulting her work, but then follows this up with an offer that she wants Judith to agree to without hearing what the offer is. Of course, she accepts.

far from the apple tree review

It seems the artist, Roberta (Victoria Liddelle), wants Judith to take up a residency at her estate, and archive her entire body of work. This would lead to a big solo show and connections for our young protagonist.

Once there however, things are trippy and uncomfortable. She is plagued with sweaty hallucinatory dreams and grows reclusive and haunted. Meanwhile, the artist seems both predatory and manipulative, all behind a mask of calm passive aggression. She is listed online as an occult artist, but what that actually means is yet to be revealed.

She tells Judith that her daughter Maddie (also Groundsell) looks just like her, but that they are estranged. This is shared in between the artist’s bragging about how ‘beautiful’, ‘healing’ and ‘inspiring’ her large abode is.

The young woman becomes obsessed with footage and artworks featuring Maddie, and Roberta encourages this obsession, dropping subtle comparisons that Judith could never live up to. “She has something you don’t”, Roberta says to Judith about her absent daughter.

far from the apple tree review

Meanwhile Judith’s best friend Anne-Marie is warning her off Roberta, claiming “she’s lying to you” over broken connections on failing phone lines. But Judith becomes swallowed up by Roberta’s world and before you can say ‘trapped’, things have gotten hairy for her. Can she save herself before she’s lost for good?

This Scottish feature from director Grant McPhee is incredibly slow and studied. It feels like a thin idea eked out over dreamy sequences and trippy imagery, which can come off as self-indulgent and often does here. The use of various film formats and fragmented footage didn’t work for me, and though I have very much enjoyed films that have used similar techniques (such as both versions of Suspiria), this story (by writer Ben Soper) and atmosphere just wasn’t strong enough to support the experimental elements, or maintain my interest. I felt no tension and the finale had been telegraphed from the beginning so it felt quite long, though only and hour and a half.

far from the apple tree review

On the plus side, the acting is faultless, with Groundsell playing dual parts and acing the complex differences and struggles experienced by both. She is surrounded by a small but strong cast, with Liddelle bringing less nuance to a still powerful performance.

The mansion where this was filmed was suitably impressive and I enjoyed the use of photography as the characters' form of artistic expression.

This film isn’t for me; it feels lacking in many ways, but I don’t doubt there is an audience for this out there.

I hope they find it.

Far From the Apple Tree is available for rent on Redemption TV.

2021 movie reviews