Apples Never Fall, Binge review: a big twist inward

Red herrings, ticking mysteries and fluffy tennis balls combine in the series adaptation of Liane Moriarty's bestselling novel.

With Apples Never Fall, Sydney author Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies, Nine Perfect Strangers) gives her formula a big twist inward. It’s still a mystery set in the homes of the well-off, but this time the focus is almost entirely on one family where everyone knows each other well enough to suspect – but not quite believe – the worst of each other. In dinner table chat they all know the best place to stick the knife: the question then becomes, could one of them have done it for real?

The Delaney family seem to have it all. Well, all the money at least. Joy (Annette Bening) and husband Stan (Sam Neill) turned their Florida tennis coaching business into an empire, and then cashed in to spend their retirement doing … well, they’ll figure that out later.

Joy seems to think it’ll involve spending a lot more time with the kids. The kids, who are clearly busy with their own messed up lives, have other ideas.

Troy (Jake Lacy) is the cashed-up success, a venture capitalist who’s recently divorced (much to Stan’s annoyance – seems the ex was great at tennis) but has a new love who maybe isn’t as much into him as he is into her. Brooke (Essie Randles) is a personal trainer with a secretly struggling business (this isn’t a family where you admit weakness) and a girlfriend who seems fully committed while her phone suggests otherwise.

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Down the less driven end of the gene pool, the laid-back Logan (Conor Merrigan-Turner) was earmarked to carry on the family business until he turned out to be more interested in boats and yoga. And Amy (Alison Brie), who Joy calls a ‘searcher’, is still trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life beyond ‘not much’.

Despite all their differences – and differing treatment from their parents – they still like each other enough for snarky group lunches and bickering over zoom calls. Which is fortunate, because suddenly they have a lot to talk about.


The series opens with Joy vanishing, leaving behind only a heavily dented pushbike. Some scenes move forward in time (labelled ‘Now’) as the kids start asking about their mother in a kind of ‘in every scene without Joy everyone should be asking “where’s Joy?”‘ fashion, while a string of pre-vanishing flashbacks (labelled ‘Then’) fill in the backstory.

There’s a fair bit to fill in, mostly involving a mysterious young woman named Savannah (Georgia Flood) who turned up on the Delaney’s doorstep one night with a bloody forehead and a story about an abusive boyfriend. For Joy, she swiftly became a project to fill in her days. Stan and the kids were somewhat more wary.

Each episode after the first focuses on a separate member of the Delaneys as the mystery of Joy’s disappearance deepens. This is pitched as a look under the surface of a seemingly perfect family, but it’s clear from the start that there’s a lot of fault lines running through the façade.

The (possible) crime is merely the hook; the various family feuds are the real meat here, and while there’s a few elements of sunny Florida noir scattered throughout, Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiassen this is not.

The parents are jam packed with secrets and lies, but to a surprisingly large extent the kids are pretty much what they seem. They may have their own dark secrets, but they’re never suspects; this is all about them delving into the murk of their parents’ relationship and dealing with the scars of their own pasts. Stan was a grumpy sod, Joy gave up her life for the family. It’s what lurks under those surfaces that are meant to keep us watching.

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There’s still a mystery ticking away, complete with red herrings and surprise witnesses and a growing mound of evidence pointing at the worst possible suspect (how exactly did Stan get that scratch on his face the night Joy vanished?).

But this is more a look at a family messed up by driven parents not afraid to play favourites, and both Neill and Benning give great performances as the kind of parents that do love their kids … somewhere deep, deep down.

It’s no surprise then that despite the huge family tennis court and Joy’s constant urging to get out there and play a few sets, nobody really seems to enjoy the sport. That’s not a good sign.

Finding out what really happened to their mother is going to be a lot tougher than picking sides for a game of mixed doubles – and at the moment, they’re struggling to manage even that.

All seven episodes of Apples Never Fall are now available on Binge.


4 out of 5 stars


Annette Bening, Sam Neill, Alison Brie, Jake Lacy, Conor Merrigan Turner, Essie Randles


Chris Sweeney

Format: TV Series

Country: USA, UK, Australia

Release: 14 March 2024

Anthony Morris is a freelance film and television writer. He’s been a regular contributor to The Big Issue, Empire Magazine, Junkee, Broadsheet, The Wheeler Centre and Forte Magazine, where he’s currently the film editor. Other publications he’s contributed to include Vice, The Vine, Kill Your Darlings (where he was their online film columnist), The Lifted Brow, Urban Walkabout and Spook Magazine. He’s the co-author of hit romantic comedy novel The Hot Guy, and he’s also written some short stories he’d rather you didn’t mention. You can follow him on Twitter @morrbeat and read some of his reviews on the blog It’s Better in the Dark.