Cherry (2021)

"My one true accomplishment was not dying. And I didn’t really have anything to do with that.""My one true accomplishment was not dying. And I didn’t really have anything to do with that."

“My one true accomplishment was not dying. And I didn’t really have anything to do with that.”

Looking at their track record one could hypothesize that whatever writing and directing brothers Joe and Anthony Russo would touch could be a success. Under their production company AGBO, the success hasn’t lived up to the hype surrounding the duo without an overseer like Kevin Feige to guide them. Having the familiar face in Tom Holland starring in their first directing job post Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Endgame the reality didn’t quite live up to the expectation with Cherry. Based on the book of the same name by author, Army veteran, drug addict and bank robber Nico Walker, Cherry is a unique story and experience to behold.

It’s not that the Russo brothers can’t handle the subject matter, they are extremely versatile directors that can tackle a variety of genres from comedy to action and drama with both small casts and large ensembles. They aim high but if the brothers aren’t directing the quality hasn’t been up to the standard we expect it to be. That said, Cherry isn’t necessarily a win for them, but it also doesn’t mean complete failure, it lands safely in between the middle. At times they play it safe and then in the next scene they go all out. 

Autobiographies can inspire the masses from humble beginnings to tragic middles to hopeful endings, but most of them if not all are about celebrities. Nico Walker is an exception. His life has been one tragedy after another that never improves in the short amount of time we know him. Choosing to have Nico (Tom Holland) narrate certain events as they play out doesn’t land every single time especially when he’s robbing a bank and describing everything he’s doing as he’s doing it. We get it, you’re robbing a bank to fuel your spiraling out of control drug habit. 

“As I stood there holding a gun, taking her in, something overtook me. Like a kind of sadness. It’s as if I’d always known that this was how things were supposed to end. But I wasn’t made to realize it until that exact moment.”

Cherry plays out on screen the way a book would be written – prologue, chapters in between and epilogue. Besides the film being called Cherry there is no explanation as to why it has this title. It’s not our narrator’s name in fact no one says Nico’s name throughout the entirety of the film. In the novel “Cherry” is the fictional character that Nico based on himself, but that information is never relayed to the viewer. Not a lot is given on Nico’s backstory or family life so the interpretation that he’s had a normal life up to this point is implied. 

Tom Holland is more than Peter Parker/ Spider-Man. Yes, he’s played that role 3 times now, but the fear of typecasting constantly surrounds him because of how young he looks. Tom carries the film with his phenomenal performance as the narrator. Hes able to showcase his range as an actor with Nico showing every single emotion a human can feel or experience especially when the PTSD and depression make their appearance. The damage done to Nico can all be traced back to when he meets Emily (Ciara Bravo). Their relationship sets him on his path of self-destruction when the L word is said but not reciprocated. He joins the army because he has no real purpose which gives him PTSD with all the combat missions. 

Nico and Emily have such a toxic relationship. It starts off the right way and over time slowly unravels because of how they treat one another. They’d rather get high then have the courage to let one another go. Tom and Ciara together have such an electric chemistry on screen then when the two are apart. Despite the drugs and bank robbing their relationship is easily relatable. 

“I know you’ve got problems. I know you’re broken. But please don’t break my daughter. If you love her, then you’ll be a man and walk away. You get up and walk away. Or I’ll f*** you up.”

Cherry’s subject matter and the way its portrayed is heavy to watch during certain points of the Narrators story. How these two didn’t kill themselves is beyond me since every scene features more and more drugs entering their bloodstreams. Slowly paced, Cherry could have sped up a bit but instead scenes are dragged out to emote the pain, suffering and anxiety. And with the two plus hour run time, moments can feel excruciatingly long when they most likely didn’t need to be. Watching Tom Holland spiral into self-induced harm and chaos while he stabs himself with a syringe over and over is not pleasing to watch any day of the week.   

I get the stylistic choices the Russo brothers were aiming for and they succeed. Cherry is filled with hyper stylistic choices – from the color palette to the use of slow-motion the film stays grounded within the reality that is set forth by its directors. One of the more prominent themes explored in Cherry is innocence and the loss of it. With Emily, mostly, her choker/necklace symbolizes the drastic change she goes through from wearing it around her neck to using it to find a vein when they become drug addicts. 

If you’re looking for a happy story Cherry isn’t it. It’s dark, twisted, unrelentingly sad and downright depressing. Joe and Anthony stick to this tone from the beginning and never let up.

One thing Joe and Anthony nail the way 2019’s Joker nails is the state of mind behind a person with mental issues. The Narrator has severe depression and PTSD that affects him, Emily and everyone they come in contact with to the point where we can sympathize with him to an extent. Then he robs a bank and shoots up heroine. Cherry also captures how this country may treat the ones who serve to protect it. When the Narrator is meeting with Dr. Whomever or when he robs that one particular bank and has the interaction with the teller who refused to cooperate these moments showcase how poorly we can treat certain groups of people. 

Cherry is certainly divisive – there are some who may love this film while some will see it as a massive failure. I’m in the middle. Tom and Ciara’s performances carry this film on their backs while the story and narration felt more haphazard. It’s a tragic story that has heavy enough subject material for one viewing and no returns to it. If I were to rate Cherry, I’d rate it a 2.5 out of 5. 

So, tell me, have you seen Cherry and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Cherry is directed by Joe and Anthony Russo is Rated R and has a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. Cherry was released on February 26, 2021 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 21 minutes. Cherry can be seen in theaters and streamed on Apple Tv+.

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