Apples, Oranges, Lemons & Limes is an existential young adult drama, written and directed by Pat Mitchell, that addresses social anxiety and the endlessness of thoughts about what could have been. The film follows Henry (Calvin Waldau), a timid young man, who attends a party with his friends. At the party, he comes across Natalie (Skye Marie Senal), his middle school crush, who has been left by her date who has gone off with another girl. Natalie, with no ride back home, and no trust in Uber, is stuck at the party—until Henry offers to walk her home. Apples, Oranges, Lemons & Limes focuses on the relationship between Henry and Natalie, their anxieties and insecurities, dreams and regrets, in a sensitive way. Nevertheless, the film struggles to create consistent intrigue and atmosphere, and the writing falls into a number of stereotypes that limits the emotional impact of the story.
Apples, Oranges, Lemons & Limes is certainly a well-meaning film. The film, particularly in its characterization of lead protagonist Henry, clearly understands social anxiety and its impact on his circumstances and relationships. Waldau performs well as Henry: his self-conscious mannerisms; his stilted delivery; his reassuring repetitions of the title phrase. He is a likable screen presence who’s suffocating nervousness creates an empathetic response in the viewer. The use of camera focus also highlights how anxiety affects people’s perception of things and how it filters things out of view. This technique is effective and ingratiates us to Henry and his situation, particularly in conversations with his more outgoing and confident friend Ryan (Juan Rodriquez Leon).
The film has some moments of impressive technical execution, but on the whole, struggles to generate sufficient atmosphere and mood. There is a dance transition early on in the film, as the party moves into night time, which is well lit and carries an energy and kineticism lacking in other parts of the film. Other sections of the film are also generally well lit, particularly when the lights of porches, driveways and security lights illuminate Henry and Natalie as they walk home through the streets and gardens of their neighborhood. This being said, the film ultimately fails to create the authentic feelings of a party or the moodiness of walking home with your middle school crush—both environments feel too placid and lacking in genuine excitement and chemistry.
The writing struggles to move beyond cliché and the characterization of certain roles also falls into stereotyping. The film talks about underdogs, the gap between the popular girl and the unpopular guy, unrequited love, fitting in at school and being yourself. The walking and talking sections are relatively well constructed, but the conversation doesn’t quite hold your attention and the intimacy isn’t quite there between characters. There is some good self-reflection on how we grow as people and how our kindness, or lack thereof, towards other people when we’re younger impacts our transition into adult relationships, but the overwhelming feeling is disrupted by uneven line delivery and sound recording. The progression of the plot, which necessitates that the two walk home together, is contrived almost to the point of disbelief.
Apples, Oranges, Lemons & Limes touches on themes relating to young adult life that resonate widely. It deals with social anxiety with care, and, at times, the film depicts situations that are relatable and conversations that cut to the core of what it is to be uncertain about life and who you are as a person. Overall, however, for a film dependent on moments of profound and incisive dialogue, Apples, Oranges, Lemons & Limes falls short of being consistently engaging. The film lacks originality as it rests on common tropes where the majority of the characters in the film lack necessary depth and personality.