At The Movies: Amnesia drama Apples, domestic abuse dark comedy Darlings

A still of Greek actor Aris Servetalis starring in Apples. PHOTO: THE PROJECTOR

Apples (PG)

90 minutes, opens today at The Projector

4 stars

The story: Amid a global outbreak of amnesia, a middle-aged man in Greece wakes up on a downtown bus suddenly not knowing who or where he is. He is enrolled into a recovery programme for amnesiacs left "unclaimed" by family.

Here are three reasons to watch this movie:

1. A film-maker to remember

Writer-director Christos Nikou helped launch the Greek Weird Wave by co-helming Yorgos Lanthimos' seminal Dogtooth (2009). Apples is his feature debut and an award-winning contribution to his national cinema's singularly strange brand of darkly deadpan absurdism.

2. A character impossible to forget

Aris Servetalis plays the unnamed solitary figure, referred to as "Aris" in the credits. He is affectless yet mysterious: How is it that he can remember the dog from his old neighbourhood?

3. A different kind of pandemic story

Aris is prescribed by his therapists a set of daily tasks like "ride a bike" or "have sex". He is to then document these experiences on Polaroid as fresh memories to construct a new self.

The dystopian tragicomedy is droll for having details so mundane. But it is also sorrowful, with existential musings on memory and identity more complex than a mere send-up of Instagram culture, and a sense of isolation and loss that resonate in these Covid-19 times.

Aris is the riddle, subtly unlocked in a fable where forgetfulness is as much an unexplained incurable disease as it is a salve for painful memories.

Darlings (NC16)

134 minutes, on Netflix

3 stars

Actress Alia Bhatt (left) and actor Viyay Varma starring in Darlings. PHOTO: THE PROJECTOR

The story: Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma co-star as a once-happy couple. Three years into their marriage, she is a battered wife taking murderous revenge. Shefali Shah is invaluable as her nosy mother-cum-avid accomplice.

Here are two reasons to watch this streaming smash.

1. Battle of the sexes

Male rights activists demanded a boycott, upset at the story for encouraging violence against men. Female netizens argue Darlings is empowering.

The Hindi dark comedy on domestic abuse in a Mumbai chawl has become the most-watched non-English Indian original film, clocking more than 24 million viewings since its Netflix release earlier this month, with plans for both a Tamil and Telugu remake.

With a subject so enraging, it was bound to be a conversation-starter even in the international media.

Kudos to debutant director Jasmeet K. Reen and co-producer Bhatt for prying open the bedroom doors of India's patriarchal society, where misogyny is systemic and victims suffer in silence.

2. No mere laughing matter

Bhatt and Shah are a terrific double act, together hatching a hare-brained vendetta.

This marital caper holds onto its prerogative as Bollywood entertainment.

It has three superstars in top form and frothy antics, but there is no missing at any moment its dire warning on the emotional manipulation and toxic cycle of spousal violence.

The wife remains hopeful her husband will change. Of course he will not. Never love a man who calls you "darlings" and then hits you.

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