‘Cherry’ is dark! Its directors keep you on edge for the duration of the engaging film.
Well, once it gets going, that is. I’ll argue everything that needed to be said from Tom Holland’s PTSD and drug-ravaged protagonist, Cherry, could have been said in under two hours, but that’s my biggest complaint. Tom Holland’s performance here is surprisingly quite moving.
The story is told in book format, in that we get the prologue, five parts or chapters, and then an epilogue. From the best-selling novel of the same name, ‘Cherry,’ is about a twenty-three-year-old from the Midwest who feels stuck. Though he goes to community college, he just stays around the house and hangs out with the same friends from school. We are introduced to each of them one by one.
Keeping the book in mind, throughout the film, the directors have us find out a lot about Cherry as he speaks to us through voiceovers. We also see him look directly into the camera as he tells us what’s going on. I’ve always liked that technique when it’s used, myself. The cinematography also helps build this extremely dramatic narrative, something you can always find in the Russo brothers films.
As I’ve mentioned, he doesn’t have much going on in his life, but maybe that’s by choice; to keep people arm’s length away. He, more or less, plays it safe in his little town, going nowhere, expecting nothing from life. If you expect things to happen to you, you get disappointed when they don’t. Cherry isn’t clueless about the beautiful things in life or take them for granted; he appreciates everything around him. Still, he doesn’t exactly trust what isn’t tangible.
However, everything changes when, at school, he meets his one true love, Emily. Ciara Bravo plays Emily with fierce intensity. We meet her in part one, the longest and slowest, of the five parts. This being considerably shortened and added to one of the other parts would have eliminated what slowed the movie down. Its pace is so slow, and it could lose some of its audience before they have a chance to find out the movie is absolutely worth staying for.
By being in school, he has set himself on the right track toward a healthy future. He has always been afraid to fall in love, worried someone would just end up tearing his heart out. Emily gives him exactly what he expected and crushes Cherry when she breaks it to him that she’s moving to Montreal to go to school. The news hits him hard, so he drops out of college and signs up for the Army, where he finds out he’s colorblind.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity Wars) take us through his Army training, letting us know exactly what Cherry thinks every step of the way, from his haircut to his anal probe. Much of the early part of this chapter is quite humorous. His advice to the audience is, ‘Don’t ever join the fucking Army.’ That said, soon, the young man is heading into war. He ends up as a medic in Iraq, where he sees more than his share of the critically injured and dying. Losing those he has grown to love and respect, he finds out war is something he wasn’t prepared to live with. When he goes back home, he is given the Medal of Valor. But then finds that what he fought and was willing to die for was not there for him when he needed it most. But at least he has Emily is back in his life.
Though they begin a happy new life together, his PTSD goes by dangerously undiagnosed. It gets worse by the day. Without meds to control his anger and stress, he turns to drugs to calm his nerves and kill the ghosts of war that still haunt him. All of this is a strain on his marriage. Unable to take his temper tantrums any further, Emily begins taking the drugs, as well, joining him in a terrible drug addiction. Before long, they are both in a desperate and deadly cycle of running out of dope, getting sick, getting money; then getting dope, getting sick, getting… you get the point, right?
They get into trouble when they break into their dealer’s safe and either use or destroy the contents inside. Their dealer is ‘Pills & Coke,’ played by Jack Reynor of ‘Midsommar’ and ‘Free Fire’ fame. Though he has to be the heavy, his character is too sweet to be. Look at Reynor’s face and tell me he could scare you.
Anyway, they don’t have the money to pay him back, so he tells them that the drugs they waisted weren’t his. If they don’t come up with the money to cover the loss, they die, and he dies. Deciding dying doesn’t sound like a great idea, Cherry comes up with bank robbery as the way to go. This is where we see the true reason this film was made comes to light. Undiagnosed and untreated PTSD from war injures more than just the forgotten soldier, but everyone around him. That message is powerful in this film. It’s hard knowing that this emotionally delicate and troubled young man, Cherry, is only one of many people who came back from war feeling neglected and forgotten by their country.
*‘Cherry’ in select theaters and will premiere globally on Apple TV+ on March 12, 2021.
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Angela Russo-Otstot, Jessica Goldberg
Stars: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor
Running Time: 2h 22min
Genres: Crime, Drama
*Based on the novel by Nico Walker