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Review: Cherry

Esther Okorocha reviews the new, overcooked Russo Brothers film, and as it turns out— Cherry bombs.

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Image Credit: Apple TV+

Director: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Starring: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Forrest Goodluck
Running Time: 2hr 22m
Rating: R

The Russo Brothers have a stellar reputation for creating major studio films, with titles like Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame under their belts. So with Cherry as their first smaller film, they have a lot to live up to. And the Russo Brothers did not make it easy for themselves by buying the rights to adapt the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, which was written (from prison) by former soldier Nico Walker. Taking inspiration from the novel, the film follows the unpredictable journey of Cherry (Tom Holland) as he goes from college-dropout to army medic in Iraq, while his relationship with the love of his life, Emily (Ciara Bravo), stays afloat. But when he returns from the war with undiagnosed PTSD, Cherry spirals into drug addiction and crime as he tries to understand his place in the world. As Cherry puts it, “I’m 23 years old, and I still don’t understand what people do.”

The 140-minute film is split into a whopping six parts in an effort to show all the events in the novel on screen. However, the decision to divide the film into chapters does nothing but emphasise the extensive run time — you are painfully aware of every minute that slowly ticks by. Realistically, the film could have been divided into two halves: war and post-war. The multiple divisions make the film seem jumpy at times, as if the Russos are trying to fit multiple genres into one film. It begins with a romance that turns into a war film, which then becomes a film about addiction. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also a heist thriller and a prison movie. Granted, the directors have a lot of material to explore, but the structure makes for difficult viewing. The heavy use of voice over from the very beginning doesn’t help either, it interrupts the action too much and is more unnecessary than useful. Not only is there this narration, but Cherry breaks the 4th wall (looks directly into the camera) from time to time, and I’m not entirely sure why it’s needed.

The Russos have brought their technical genius and plentiful studio resources to the film, but it seems widely misplaced. They have a strange preoccupation with switching up camera angles, aspect ratios, and toying around with sound effects. One instance is the highly gratuitous POV shot from inside — yes, inside —of Cherry’s asshole during a rectal exam.  A shot, complete with sound effects, that I have been trying to erase from my mind ever since. Again, these superfluous stylistic choices don’t make sense for an adaption of such a novel. It is, after all, a story about bank-robbing in Cleveland, Ohio.

Yet through all of the distractions, it’s clear to see that Holland gives a strong performance throughout. Cherry is a much more complex character for Holland to inhabit, and Peter Parker fans may be surprised to see the actor in such a mature role. Yet Holland seems more than ready to break free from his squeaky-clean Marvel image. Whatever the Russos threw at Holland, he more than handled it. College kid? Check. Army Vet? Check. Drug Addict? Check. Bank Robber? Check. In part three, there’s an awkward moment where he jerks off in a portable toilet. Then at the end of the film, he repeatedly stabs a needle into his thigh outside of the emergency room where his girlfriend Emily is being resuscitated after an overdose. These wanton moments make it difficult to engage with Holland’s performance. Nevertheless, he is well matched by Bravo, who gives a stunning delivery throughout the film. At times, she is the one who sparks the most emotional response from the viewer.

There’s a lot that goes on in Cherry. Some of it works but most of it doesn’t, even with the strong performances by Holland and Bravo. And so, for their first film post-Marvel, the Russos missed the mark. Any attempt to highlight the lack of support veterans receive when they return from war, and subsequent struggles with undiagnosed PTSD and drug addiction, is overshadowed by the misguided stylistic choices of the directors.

Editor's Note: Cherry is available to stream on Apple TV

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