Gripping, mature psychological thriller about the disastrous fallout from an illicit affair
★★★★ BBC1, Sunday, 22 January, 9pm
THIS IS A THRILLER for grown-ups. There is no elaborate concept, fancy stunts or evil masterminds. Instead, it’s contemporary and down-to-earth as it delves into the life of a successful woman tempted to indulge in a raunchy affair.
With a hugely sympathetic leading performance by Emily Watson and an enigmatic lover portrayed by Ben Chaplin, Apple Tree Yard is a rich mix of the illicit and dangerous.
Watson is Dr Yvonne Carmichael, scientist, wife and mother. She is trapped in a web of intrigue when she takes a walk on the wild side with a mysterious stranger. Finding herself alone with him in the crypt of the House of Commons, Yvonne gives in to sudden temptation.
As she confides to her diary: ‘Before I met you I was a civilised woman…’
Who is Apple Tree Yard’s enigmatic lover?
The stranger is Mark Costley and they start to meet for risky sex – risky in that he is fixated with doing it in public places. She is just fixated with him.
But who is charming Mark? He seems at home in Parliament, says he is something in Crown properties management… but Yvonne starts to suspect he more shady than that. A spy, perhaps?
Apple Tree Yard is based on an excellent thriller by novelist Louise Doughty. I was a judge on the CWA Ian Fleming Thriller of the Year Award and can reveal that all the judges loved this smart, dark tale. It was shortlisted for the prize, but narrowly edged out by eventual winner, Robert Harris’s An Officer and a Spy.
Emily Watson excels in an emotionally challenging role
Emily Watson is terrific in the emotionally demanding role as a woman weighing up married life (Mark Bonnar plays husband Gary) and the jeopardy of her fantasy escape.
When horrific violence erupts at the end of episode one, Yvonne is plunged into a nightmare. Some viewers will condemn Yvonne; some will say, Good on you for going for it.
It’s that kind of thriller – intriguing and complex.