It’s a cold, wet, rainy Monday and we know the only hope you have of moving from your couch + slipper socks + wine = happy plan is if hell itself freezes over, so allow us to tell you what best to tune into later: Apple Tree Yard, 9pm, BBC1. The gripping series comes to its exciting conclusion tonight so cancel all prior engagements.
Chances are, you’ve heard of Apple Tree Yard, the long-awaited adaptation of Louise Doughty’s best-selling psychological thriller. If you’ve read it, you’ll know this provocative story follows Dr Yvonne Carmichael (played by the brilliant Emily Watson) who embarks on a passionate and dangerous love affair with Mark (played by a wonderfully brooding Ben Chaplin), a mysterious, younger man she barely knows. Yes, it all makes for some racy TV but even better is the high praise for this taboo-breaking drama that explores the sexual fulfilment of a woman in her late forties.
Whether you want to see it or not, sex is everywhere. It’s in advertisements, in music videos, in film – acting as a type of instruction; informing the women watching that this is what she should aspire to be or look like or do, in order to have a life of sexual happiness – and usually the women used to front all this (unless you’re Kate Moss) has only just turned 21. Having sex is all well and good if you’re in the throes of youth, but rarely do we see it depicted from the stance of a middle-aged woman. Madonna at almost sixty demands the best of it, for example, openly admitting to having lovers 30 years her junior and this does, as she says, make people feel very uncomfortable. The whole topic generally makes people weary; sex past 35 due to the shame culture that surrounds female sexuality. Shows like Girls and SATC have tried to make the conversation a positive one, but we’re still not quite there. How many of us are too embarrassed to visit a gynaecologist if things aren’t quite right in our sex lives, or if we’re in pain or have a problem?
Perhaps this is why Apple Tree Yard has captivated critics. For once, we see the everyday, relatable woman, flawed and insecure, take steps to see that her erotic needs are met – and by a younger man, no less. It’s a powerful, positive subject to explore and the series has seen many boundaries broken; nothing is shunned here, and there’s not an ageist attitude in sight.
Yvonne’s journey isn’t straight and narrow; her character slowly wields a path to self-destruction and the drama depicted is brutal and uneasy at times, with one particularly harrowing scene of sexual assault in a previous episode. The twists keep coming though, and the whole series just seems so very real that you’ll be glued to your seat. While we enjoy the conclusion of what was gripping TV, we can only hope it sparks a trend for similar boundary-breaking programmes.
Everything gets tied up in the final of this four-part series tonight, so if you haven’t seen the previous parts, you still have time to find them before 9pm.