DIRECTED BY: Anthony and Joe Russo
STARRING: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Micheal Rispoli, Jeff Wahlberg, Forrest Goodluck, Michael Gandolfini, Kyle Harvey, Pooch Hall, Damon Wayans Sr., Thomas Lennon, Kelli Berglund, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Nicole Forester, Jamie Brewer, Fionn O’Shea, Sam Clemmett and Adam Long
Cherry is about young man who drifts from dropping out of college to serving in Iraq as an Army medic and is only anchored by his one true love, Emily. When Cherry returns home a war hero, he battles the demons of undiagnosed PTSD and spirals into drug addiction, surrounding himself with a menagerie of depraved misfits.
Cherry is the film adaptation of Nico Walker’s debut novel of the same name, adapted by Angela Russo-Otstot and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. The film focuses on a disenfranchised young man from Ohio who meets the love of his life, Emily, only to risk losing her through a series of bad decisions and challenging life circumstances. He drops drops out of college and decides to serve in Iraq as an Army medic, only anchored by his one true love. As he returns home a war hero, he begins to battle with his demons and PTSD, spiralling into a life of drug addiction, which drains his finances, leading him to turn to robbing banks to fund his addiction, shattering his relationship with Emily along the way.
With the Russo Brothers directing and Tom Holland taking a less clean-cut role in this drama film, there was certainly some intrigue as to what the trio could do with Nico Walker’s novel. With a two-hour and twenty-minute runtime, the film uses its time to develop the relationship between him and fellow classmate Emily. Even though he’s already in a relationship, it’s made evidently clear that we’re not made to think or care about that little piece of plot as no sooner as she’s introduced, Emily is all he has on his mind and soon the two lovebirds are together until he commits to saying three words that strange everything: I love you. This leads to both of them making rash, impulsive decisions, with Emily saying she is moving to Montreal and he makes the reactionary impulsive decision to walk into an army recruitment building and is signed on to serve.
The film spends a lot of time trying to give us depth for him, Emily and his inner circle of friends, Cousin Joe and James Lightfoot, though for my personal taste it feels like the film is really struggling narratively in what it’s trying to say within the first forty to forty-five minutes, until we get to Part 2/Chapter Two of the film. Here, the film begins to find its stride as we follow him being put through his paces at basic training, then he begins his tour in Iraq as a medic, befriending fellow army recruit Jimenez. While it’s stylised by the Russo’s, the aspect ratio changes to intensify the verbal and mental torture that ‘Cherry’ and the fellow recruits are put through here by the drill sergeant, with one in particular being someone who should be put into counselling rather than choking kids out. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that it’s the war scenes here that are some of the best executed scenes by the Russo Brothers, particularly in one graphic sequence that is pivotal to Tom Holland’s character and what gives him PTSD. Then as he returns, his PTSD triggers night terrors, leading him to getting Xanax, which leads him down the path to getting more drugs and addicted to opioids and his relationship with Emily is forever changed because of that, and in order to feed his addiction, he ends up robbing banks because…it’s quick and easy money.
The film has a lot of style put into it, but it feels that the Russo Brothers were just too overambitious in trying to tell a love story, a war story, and an addiction story, that when it’s compiled together it doesn’t really work as either one. There’s some nice shots here and there, particularly in the scene where Emily first speaks to Holland’s character and as she maintains in focus, everyone walking by him and her are out-of-focus. I appreciate operatic music as much as anyone else, but the film relies on an overabundance of it for moments that it really wants you to feel a certain emotion, rather than earning it. As characters, Tom Holland’s unnamed character (until he’s referred to as a ‘cherry’ during basic training) and Ciara Bravo’s Emily, are the only ones given real depth in the entirety of the film, and the chemistry and performances from Holland and Bravo at least keep you invested enough to see the film through. Holland definitely grabbed this more mature role with both hands and showcases his talents to remind anyone who may have forgotten or dismissed his capabilities because ‘he’s Spider-Man’. Unfortunately the rest of the ensemble just serve to exist as characters that come and go in Cherry and Emily’s story, with Jack Reynor in particular wasted, though Michael Gandolfini’s performance with his limited screentime makes me more interested in how he portrays Tony Soprano in the upcoming The Many Saints Of Newark.
While Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo give good performances, and the film provides some well executed sequences, Cherry suffers from over ambition, too much style over substance and a messy narrative structure.
CHERRY WLL BECOME AVAILABLE ON APPLE TV+ ON THE 12TH MARCH 2021.