Last Friday, the film “Cherry” was released on Apple TV+. Made by director duo Anthony and Joe Russo fresh off of their acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe contributions, and starring Tom Holland in a role wholly unlike his star-making one of Spider-Man, “Cherry” tells the harrowing story of a young veteran’s descent into crime following the Iraq War. Despite the distinguished performances by leads Holland and Ciara Bravo, “Cherry’s” only source of nourishment is that of its periodization and social relevance; when stripped away of its connection to recent history, the story of “Cherry” is uninspiring, with the plot’s hollowness further underscored by its ridiculous script and style.
Set sometime in the early 2000s, the film’s titular character Cherry (Holland) falls deeply in love with college classmate Emily (Bravo), who rejects him in a moment of confusion. Unable to withstand this romantic rejection, Cherry suddenly enlists in the U.S. Army. Emily eventually returns to Cherry in full reciprocation, but the honeymoon of their love is cut short by Cherry’s impending deployment to a war-torn Iraq.
Though he returns from his deployment physically unharmed, Cherry is still mentally scarred by the horrors he had survived. There is no psychic bandage for his mental pain, with the exception of a drug habit supported only by his habitual robberies of banks. As the story progresses, Cherry loses sight of his anguish from the war, but does not relent in using the war’s trauma to justify his reckless depravity. The main tragedy of “Cherry” lies not necessarily in its variables of war, drug and crime, but rather in Cherry’s impulsivity that leads to such variables.
“That supposed to make you a good guy now?” a bank teller questions Cherry after he robs her.
Cherry responds, “‘Did you fight for this f*****g country?’”
A tragedy of impulsivity, the film’s creation was as impulsive as its actual narrative. The tale is precipitously plotted with events that are clearly aimed to shock, but fail to consummate any intended emotional weight due to their predictability and lack of adequate build-up. (Spoilers: For example, a character with little dimension besides their association with Cherry dies after only a few short scenes, and the only impact this character has on the plot is their instrumentality in Cherry’s post-traumatic stress). Because of this lack of depth, the characters’ desperate decisions sometimes seem unsympathetic instead of lamentable.
The lack of an organic script is demonstrable in the failures of the dialogue, with Cherry’s overly edgy narration sacrificing the film’s dramatic weight in its unintended comedy. Additionally, the film’s strange visual style worsens its unintentional silliness, featuring Instagram filtered cinematography and bizarre editing cuts. This makes the aesthetic viewing experience one that is less emblematic of a serious film and more one of a David Guetta music video.
But a story like the one “Cherry” is struggling to tell is not meant to be impulsively mishandled to the point of comical inefficacy. This is because the conflicts of the main character retain a level of pertinence in a country currently wreaked by the opioid epidemic and mental health crises, which take more lives each passing year from “deaths of despair.” Even in a film market oversaturated by escapism from diseases of despair, “Cherry” misses its mark by not successfully addressing it.
Regardless, “Cherry” is a fruit that is not totally spoiled. Holland’s rich performance of Cherry is as heartbreaking as it is effective, and with his emotionally dark portrayal, he sheds his Disneyfied image with ease. Due to the tenable chemistry between Holland and Bravo, the romance between Cherry and Emily is ripe with pure love that is felt through the screen — even in the face of the grit both characters endure. Even if at times costing narratorial authenticity, the film’s disturbing depiction of war, post-traumatic stress and opioid addiction is brutally and convincingly honest.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars