|Crew:||Production Design: Philip Ivey | Casting: Deborah Aquila | Art Direction: Marco Trentini | Director of Photography: Newton Thomas Sigel | Director: Anthony Russo | Producer: Anthony Russo | Director: Joe Russo | Producer: Joe Russo | Producer: Matthew Rhodes | Executive Producer: Wang Zhonglei|
Cherry drifts from college dropout to army medic in Iraq - anchored only by his true love, Emily. But after returning from the war with PTSD, his life spirals into drugs and crime as he struggles to find his place in the world.
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I've been an advocate for Apple TV+ since I saw Servant. I genuinely believe it's the most underrated streaming service out there, especially in my country. Even though I've only watched one TV show, I've yet to seriously dislike a single film (Wolfwalkers, Palmer, On the Rocks), which only elevated my already high expectations for Cherry. I sincerely appreciate the magnificent, genre-defining work that the Russo Brothers did in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, mainly with the last Avengers flicks, so I'd always be interested in seeing how they handle things outside of the MCU. Cast Tom Holland (The Devil All the Time, Onward) as the protagonist, and you've got yourself one of the most anticipated movies of the first half of 2021.
One of the best attributes of the Russo Brothers' filmmaking style is their incredible capability of tackling an overwhelming amount of distinct storylines and characters without ruining the film's pacing, tone, and narrative structure. "Less is more" is not exactly a guideline followed by these directors, which is far from being an issue in the superhero genre. However, when it comes to a smaller movie like Cherry, the combination of genres and different narratives deeply hurts the overarching story. What starts as a simple, cute love story transitions to a heavy war action-drama and ends with a monotonous, dull, slow-paced plot surrounding drug addiction, PTSD, and bank robberies.
These three storylines have served as individual premises to hundreds of films throughout cinema history. This doesn't mean they can't be developed in a single movie, but Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg's screenplay needed to be better structured. The first half of the film is quite captivating and entertaining, to say the least. Cherry (Tom Holland) and Emily (Ciara Bravo) are two compelling characters who get emotionally attached naturally, making the eventual dilemma that leads Cherry to join the army pretty convincing, besides being a reasonably common situation. In this first genre shift, the tone changes without issues, and the entire war plot is definitely worth the viewer's investment.
This portion of the movie is where the directors shine. High production value goes into creating riveting action set pieces, and Newton Thomas Sigel's energetic camera work elevates every major sequence. Marvel fans will surely be delighted during this subplot, but the film's biggest problem comes with its second half. Featuring an extremely abrupt genre transition, Cherry goes downhill throughout its last 80 minutes or so, drowning itself in a pool of taboo subjects. From the drastic drop in pace to the dismal tone, Cherry and Emily go through a painfully repetitive, cliche drug addiction story. Adding PTSD and silly bank robberies to the mix doesn't work at all.
Overall, it's an incredibly messy screenplay that tries to do too much, but the Russo Brothers' overwhelming directing method also doesn't quite work for the movie. Excess of slow-motion, an all-over-the-place score (Henry Jackman) - it's actually quite good, just not used appropriately - and numerous camera angles that, despite delivering gorgeous shots, distract the viewer from the actual story, which should be the main focus. Cherry feels like a showcase for what the famous brothers can do with a smaller budget. While they're successful in demonstrating their talent behind the camera, it's not something they needed to prove to the audience, who just wants to watch a film with great story and characters, not be confused by technical wonders that have no place in this movie.
In the middle of the directing and writing chaos, Tom Holland sweeps in and delivers his career-best performance. In my humble opinion, I strongly believe he could be an Oscar-winner by the end of the decade. At 26-years-old, Holland shows an exceptional emotional range, particularly powerful in interpreting the most solemn emotions. Add a fantastic physical display, and you've got yourself an actor who can basically do anything. With this role, Holland deeply explores his acting skills, performing shocking scenes that everyone will find hard to watch due to his all-out commitment. Ciara Bravo might start as just a "pretty face", but the problematic second half actually helps her get out of her shell and step up her game. Excellent portrayal, surprising even from someone who doesn't have that big of a feature-film career.
Cherry is an indisputable mess, but it hangs on due to a captivating first half, a career-best performance from Tom Holland, and an overall well-shot film. The frustrating, damaging mishmash of genres might originate from the rumpled screenplay, but the unnecessary directing showcase for the Russo Brothers also hurts the multiple-narrative movie. The generic yet accurate "less is more" motto wasn't used during the making of this film, something proved by the sumptuous yet distracting camera angles, a gripping yet all-over-the-place score, and an impactful yet excessive use of slow-motion. The first part boasts a compelling, entertaining storyline featuring an authentic love story and a war drama packed with outstanding action set pieces. However, its other half heavily drops the pacing and depressingly changes the tone, leading the viewer into a tiresome, formulaic, much less interesting storyline. Despite all that, Holland's impressive interpretation will leave no one indifferent, grabbing the audience’s attention until the very end and elevating every single scene. Ciara Bravo works beautifully as the female counterpart, delivering a surprising performance. In the end, I do recommend it, even though I expected a lot more from the people involved.
Tom Holland and Joe and Anthony Russo have teamed up again but this time on a project which is about as far away from the Marvel universe as possible. Based on the book Nico Walker; “Cherry” is a compelling tale told in segments that depict a different style and phase of the main character’s life.
Holland stars as a young man who is trying to find a direction in his life. He meets a young girl named Emily (Ciara Bravo), and soon begins a relationship with her. This phase of the film plays out as a Young Romance film and the audience is given a good look at their world.
When Emily decides to move to Montreal to go to school and escape the issues she has’ Cherry goes into a downward spiral and enlists in the Army as a way to escape his pain and to try to find direction.
The film takes a dramatic turn at this point as Emily and Cherry reunite and marries but he is facing his pending military service which will split the couple. The film then pivots and becomes a war movie as we see Cherry go through Basic Training and then is deployed to Afghanistan as a medic. The horrors he experiences during his two years in the service traumatize him and he returns home to Emily with a severe case of PTSD which complicates their life and relationship.
The film then pivots again to show a descent into depression and drug addiction as Cherry and Emily fall deeply into the spell of drugs which causes Cherry to become more and more desperate to fund their habit which soon includes bank robbery.
While the film is deeply dark and depressing; there is a thread of hope throughout the film as despite their numerous issues; the bond between Emily and Cherry remains despite challenges well beyond what any normal relationship faces.
The honest and brutal nature of the story is amplified by the fact that this is a true story based on the life of Nico Walker. There have been films that depict the challenges facing Vets such as “The Deer Hunter” “Coming Home”, and “Born on the 4th of July”, which underscores the struggles that Vietnam Vets faced after their service. While “Cherry” looks at a modern conflict; it underscores how Vets are still struggling to get the care they need as many survivors to return broken and unable to resume their lives.
Holland and Bravo have solid chemistry with one another and the story is gripping and engaging throughout. Seeing Holland in a much more mature and darker role than we are used to seeing him in shows that he has a range of talents and is very capable of taking on a variety of parts.
Joe and Anthony Russo moved well from their recent Marvel films to a deeply personal and troubling story and the fact that they cover the multiple genres in each of the film segments shows they are very talented filmmakers with a bright future.
Do not be shocked to see “Cherry” come up at the next awards season as it is a film not to be missed and you can see it on Apple TV on March 12th. and cinemas on February 26th.
4.5 stars out of 5
A man’s journey that starts during his years as a college student and leads to a stint as an Army medic in Iraq, a suffering drug addict, and eventually an armed robber is told in “Cherry,” a film by the Russo brothers. Based on Nico Walker’s 2018 novel of the same name, this semi-autobiographical story is like an encyclopedia of bad decisions that focuses too heavily on portraying another American tale of opioid abuse. It’s a shame because this atypical coming-of-age movie could’ve been something so much better.
Cherry’s (Tom Holland) life seems normal enough. He’s an average guy working average jobs and doing well enough in school. He’s become smitten with beautiful co-ed Emily (Ciara Bravo), and it’s soon clear that she’s “the one.” After a breakup leaves him in agony, Cherry hastily decides to drop out of college and enlists in the Army, which brings Emily back into his life. The two get married before he’s sent off to basic training, and eventually Cherry is pushed into combat in the Middle East. While serving in the medical unit during the war, he sees the horrors of humanity first-hand, and comes home a changed man. Unable to function and with his marriage crumbling, he begins popping Oxycodone. This turns into an addiction spiral that eventually leads to a debilitating heroin habit that leaves him no choice but to start robbing banks for drug money.
It’s an interesting (if sad) story, but it’s not well told. Directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo throw in too many gimmicky devices that are all over the place, creating a chaotic potpourri of annoyance and exasperation. Not only are many of the scenes scored with opera and the lead character breaks the fourth wall to directly address the audience, but the whole vibe of the movie is so disorderly that it makes me wonder if the Russos refused to make any edits to the hurricane of ideas in their heads. It’s as if they stuck anything and everything that came to mind into one two hour feature, and it’s like a headache come to life.
The basic training segment is the strongest part of the film, as is most of the material set during the war. Once the story shifts from Iraq, everything falls apart and it turns into another tedious addiction movie that’s not fun to watch. Seeing a couple strung out and shooting heroin to get through the day isn’t compelling, especially when it’s continuously repeated and every other scene serves little purpose other than to make you think “oh, how awful.”
It is horrible to see a young veteran who is consumed by an addiction that is a result of his paralyzing PTSD. It’s sad to see a man who can’t get help dealing with his psychological problems as he relives the worst horrors of war. It’s understandable that he and his wife become addicts who will do anything, including robbing banks, to score their next fix. But it’s the same old, same old when it comes to strung-out druggie movies, and the Russo brothers don’t present any fresh ideas or views on the topic.
The story is told from Cherry’s perspective, and screenwriters Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg don’t neglect the specifics of the man’s worldview (the film’s authority figures, for example, are introduced as anonymous figureheads like Sgt. Whomever at the Army enlistment office and Dr. Whomever, the Oxy-pushing counselor). The casual writing fits the material well, with vivid, descriptive writing and dialogue that’s wonderfully detailed.
All of this is brought to life through a career-best performance from Holland. He shows off his range and is terrific in the lead role. It’s a far cry from his “Spiderman” days, and Holland is growing as a big screen talent that will be one to watch for years to come. He’s not falling into the trap of agreeing to roles that will pigeonhole him, and his level of risk taking should be applauded.
“Cherry” is a mess of a movie that tries to do too much. Despite the film’s positive elements, I can’t get past the unnecessary excess.