REVIEW: ‘Cherry’ Is An Ambitious and Heartbreaking Turn for Tom Holland

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Cherry

Cherry is an Apple Original Film directed and produced by Joe and Anthony Russo under their AGBO Films banner and based on the novel of the same name by Nico Walker. A young college student (Tom Holland) falls in love with a girl named Emily (Ciara Bravo) but soon joins the military after their relationship hits a rocky patch. Returning home after a tour of duty in Iraq, he is wracked with PTSD and soon falls into a spiral of drug abuse and then delves into robbery to secure money for his and Emily’s addiction.

Although the Russos have produced films including 21 Bridges and Extraction under the AGBO banner, Cherry marks their first directorial effort since Avengers: Endgame. Much like the novel, the film is broken into “chapters” with each chapter corresponding to a year in the life of Holland’s character. And with each chapter, the Russos switch up their directorial style. The first chapter feels like a romantic drama, with warm lighting and a focus on the two leads, and I do mean “focus” in a literal sense as everyone else is blurred out. Another chapter, chronicling the protagonist’s time in basic training, is shot in a boxed-in and extremely claustrophobic style. Cinematographer Thomas Newton Siegel is the film’s secret weapon, as he makes each chapter feel like its own separate film.

The Russos also switch things up by honing in on a single character rather than an ensemble cast, and the results are captivating-and often disturbing-to watch. Holland previously tackled adult drama with The Devil All The Time and he cranks it up a notch as his character shifts from a college student to a PTSD-riddled bank robber. He’ll break down sobbing in one scene, overcome by the horrors of war. Then he’ll repeatedly jab a needle into his leg, before slamming his head against the seat of a car in rage during another scene.

Holland’s protagonist often breaks the fourth wall to address the audience with a sardonic aside. This part of the film felt hit and miss, with the best use coming early in the film’s prologue. The inner narration running throughout the film served as a better vehicle for the dark humor that often laces the film.

Cherry

The foundation on which the film and novel were built is the love story, and Holland and Bravo definitely have chemistry to spare. Much like Holland, Bravo goes through her own transformation. When she first appears, the camera slowly spins around her and radiant light surrounds her giving her an angelic look. Later in the film when Holland’s character is self-medicating with Oxycontin, she yanks the pills from him and proceeds to berate him before letting loose a bloodcurdling, primal scream of fury. The film also doesn’t shy away from showing her descent into addiction, which culminates in one of Cherry’s best scenes. Considering Bravo is best known for her role in Big Time Rush, she more than stepped up to the plate and I hope she continues to tackle more projects like this in the future.

If there is one flaw with the film, it lies within the ending. It feels somewhat tacked on and is a drastic departure from the somber tone of the original novel. I don’t know if this was the decision of the Russo Brothers or screenwriters Angela Russo-Ostot and Jessica Goldberg, but the film would have been much stronger if the last fifteen minutes had been excised from the final cut. I understand that “earning your happy ending” is a big deal in films and not every book adaptation has to match the source page for page, but Walker’s novel ended on a perfect note and I wish the film had taken the same route.

Cherry is an ambitious directorial turn from the Russo Brothers, featuring what may well be the best performance of Tom Holland’s career. It blends genres, has an evolving visual style, and finds solid ground in the relationship between its two leads. I hope that Holland continues to tackle more adult roles in the future, and I look forward to the Russos’ upcoming films including The Gray Man and Electric State.

Cherry is currently playing in theaters and will be available to stream on Apple TV+ starting March 12.

Cherry
  • 8/10
    Ratin - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Cherry is an ambitious directorial turn from the Russo Brothers, featuring what may well be the best performance of Tom Holland’s career. It blends genres, has an evolving visual style, and finds solid ground in the relationship between its two leads. I hope that Holland continues to tackle more adult roles in the future, and I look forward to the Russos’ upcoming films including The Gray Man and Electric State.