'Apples Never Fall' Brings Another Twisty Liane Moriarty-Penned Mystery to the Small Screen with an Ace Cast

After 'Big Little Lies' and 'Nine Perfect Strangers' comes this Annette Bening-, Sam Neill- and Alison Brie-starring whodunnit, which was shot in Australia.
Sarah Ward
March 14, 2024

On the page and on the screen, audiences know what's in store when Sydney-born and -based author Liane Moriarty's name is attached to a book or TV series. Domestic disharmony within comfortable communities fuels her tales, as do twisty mystery storylines. When they hit streaming, the shows based on her novels add in starry casts as well. Indeed, after Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers, it might come as a shock that Nicole Kidman (Expats) is nowhere to be found in Apples Never Fall, which drops its seven episodes via Binge in Australia and TVNZ+ in New Zealand from Thursday, March 14. The Australian actor will be back in another adaptation of Moriarty's tomes, also with a three-word title, with The Last Anniversary currently in the works. Fresh from an Oscar nomination for Nyad, Annette Bening is no mere stand-in right now.

Where Kidman has co-starred with Reese Witherspoon (The Morning Show), Laura Dern (The Son) and Alexander Skarsgård (Mr & Mrs Smith), and also Melissa McCarthy (The Little Mermaid), Michael Shannon (The Flash) and Luke Evans (Good Grief), Bening is joined by Sam Neill (The Twelve), Alison Brie (Somebody I Used to Know) and Jake Lacy (A Friend of the Family). If Lacy's involvement brings The White Lotus to mind, he's again at home playing affluent and arrogant — but no one is on holiday in Apples Never Fall. Rather, in West Palm Beach, the tennis-obsessed Delaney family finds their well-off existence shattered when matriarch Joy (Bening) goes missing, leaving just a banged-up and blood-splattered bicycle, a strewn-about basket of apples and her mobile phone behind. Her adult children Troy (Lacy), Amy (Brie), Logan (Conor Merrigan Turner, Thai Cave Rescue) and Brooke (Essie Randles, The Speedway Murders) are worried, while husband Stan (Neill) first advises that his spouse is merely ill, a choice that does nothing to stop suspicion rocketing his way.

In addition to charting the search for Joy, the Queensland-shot Apples Never Fall bounces through ample backstory. After its introductory instalment, each episode focuses on one of the family; across them all, the timeline is split into "then" and "now". It soon becomes apparent that the doting Joy and determined Stan were talented players, then established the Delaney Tennis Academy when his aspirations were cruelled by injury, and she sidelined hers to support him and have their kids. The entire quartet of offspring all pursued the sport, too, but not to the glory that the quick-tempered Stan always wanted for the Delaney name. The closest that he got was via a former pupil (Giles Matthey, Invitation to Murder) who went on to win grand slams long after Stan was his coach. Only months before Joy's disappearance, the couple retired, an adjustment that neither is taking to blissfully.

Credited more than once by her children with saving them, Joy believed that she'd be able to become an even bigger presence in their lives when she had an influx of spare time. None are overly obliging. Raking in cash as a venture capitalist, and also divorcing the wife that his family all adored, Troy is busy — plus simmering with years of anger over his strained relationship with his dad. The new age-leaning Amy is struggling to ascertain where she fits in, with a string of different jobs and courses to her name as she rents a sharehouse from a guy in his 20s (Nate Mann, Masters of the Air). Logan now prefers working at a marina and doing yoga to the Delaney obsession, yet can't bring himself to skip town away from his relatives with his partner (Pooja Shah, Escape the Night). And Brooke has a post-tennis physical therapy service that's lacking clients, and is also having doubts about marrying her restaurateur fiancée (Paula Andrea Placido, The L Word: Generation Q).

Another person looms large over the narrative: Savannah (Georgia Flood, Blacklight), who graces the Delaneys' doorstep fleeing from domestic abuse, or so she claims. Seeking shelter for the night swiftly turns into virtually moving in. Joy loves her company but her brood is sceptical about the newcomer's motives. As a result, what's happened to Joy isn't the sole question lingering over Apples Never Fall. Neither is why Stan is being so cagey and erratic about where she is and what he knows. Both through Savannah's easy immersion into the family, and also when the four Delaney kids only realise over lunch that their mother might've vanished — coming to that conclusion because none have heard from her, after each of them ignored her most-recent calls — it also sparks queries about this supposedly close-knit clan's seemingly perfect facade. 

That's also Moriarty's remit, unpacking lives that appear idyllic, only to prove a stark reality that everyone should know: that absolutely no one's is. It's also a whodunnit staple, given that nothing exposes cracks and flaws within the bonds of blood like the possibility that a murder could've occurred from within. Apples Never Fall has the right title for that train of thought, thanks to the proverb that its moniker is taken from. The show isn't pointing its fingers at Joy's children, though, but delving into the idea that how we see and interact with the world ripples downwards through families. Although obvious, the concept underscores a series where baggage and its pain are as inescapable as balls flung from an automatic machine.

That Apples Never Fall's opening episode features apples literally falling demonstrates its willingness to make easy, overt and predictable choices; it isn't plot or thematic surprises that make this engaging viewing, but the performances that go with them. While showrunner Melanie Marnich (A Murder at the End of the World) frequently sticks with tropes, and with exposition-delivering dialogue as well — especially from the two detectives (Hightown's Jeanine Serralles and Sweet Tooth's Dylan Thuraisingham) on the case — the portrayals that populate the series are layered and grounding. There's nothing that astonishes among the show's character types, either; however, Apples Never Fall is well-aware that tropes and archetypes become just that because they spring from truth over and over.

Accordingly, as set within a Florida-residing clan where tennis has always dictated the pace, the latest Moriarty-based page-to-screen effort fills its frames with figures who make expected moves — unshakeably so — while also examining why that's the outcome. As the Gold Coast, Brisbane's Queensland Art Gallery and more stand in for America, the minutiae is equally familiar, spanning unfulfilled dreams, weighty pressures, nagging resentments and taking people for granted, alongside envy, infidelity, and endeavouring to forge a sense of identity beyond the notion enforced by birth or marriage. From Bening in exceptional form as a woman coming to terms with everything that she's sacrificed to fit wife and mother roles, Neill also digging through haunting regrets, and Brie and Lacy in particular fleshing out parts that could've remained one-note in other hands, this cast is up to the task of cutting to the heart of this tale and its crucial relationships, and of Moriarty's recurrent fixations. The title is right: these apples never fall far from the author's template, but Apples Never Fall still makes for intriguing and quickly bingeable viewing.

Check out the trailer for Apples Never Fall below:

Apples Never Fall streams via Binge in Australia and TVNZ+ in New Zealand from Thursday, March 14.

Images: Vince Valitutti and Jasin Boland/PEACOCK.

Published on March 14, 2024 by Sarah Ward
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x