There are occasional breaks in their conversation, mainly from Darlene’s best friend Gretchen (Janeane Garofalo), who lives a few hundred feet away. But “The Apology” is essentially a two-hander set in a dark and seemingly endless present moment. What starts as a cordial, if slightly punch-drunk, catch-up inevitably becomes a vague and unsettling confrontation. Jack’s needs appear apparent on their face since he can’t stop expressing himself. But this is Darlene’s house, and she isn’t a passive victim.
“The Apology” is also a revenge fantasy, so it’s easy to anticipate what comes next. It’s easy to project one’s feelings onto Darlene and Jack’s dialogue, given that so much media coverage of post-MeToo predatory behavior is focused on abusive personalities instead of their many and understandably reluctant victims. Outrage sells, and victimhood is only attractive if it flatters your audience.
Writer/director Alison Star Locke’s characters talk and behave like real people, with messy, half-planned ulterior motives that extend well beyond their stated desires. That’s not just because of Gunn and Roche’s measured performances and compelling back-and-forth chemistry. Locke and her collaborators—especially cinematographer Jack Caswell, sound designer Julie Diaz, and their respective teams—keep their drama focused on its mercurial tone. Because both Jack and Darlene have been dreading their talk almost about as much as they’ve anticipated ways to keep it manageable.
Locke and her team pay close attention to the dime turns and jarring twists that lead Darlene and Jack from one revelation to the next. Zip ties, old photos, and dead phones are introduced and used sparingly, and circumstantial peril only reflects Darlene and Jack’s defining confusion and upset. Locke and her crew rarely lean so hard on their characters, either by flattering or vilifying them, to take us out of this specific moment.
“The Apology” could have been a sad wallow that vainly pushes buttons for cheap catharsis. That’s ultimately where the movie lands, but by that point, the film’s already successfully put you through the wringer. Anything after that isn’t as important.