by @holocronGeorge for @FilmCodex
Tom Holland and the Russo brothers team up once again, except this time the superheroes and visual effects are left behind in exchange for a harrowing and uniquely told tale about the effects of PTSD and substance abuse. Tom Holland stars as an unnamed man, whose life is looking up after falling in love with a woman named Emily, played by Ciara Bravo. The film tracks Holland’s character as he leaves this idyllic life behind to join the Army, where struggles with mental health soon follow as he plummets into a life as a bank robber.
Cherry doesn’t offer much, if anything, particularly unique in terms of its story. We’ve seen tales of war and its deleterious effects on one’s well-being like The Hurt Locker and Born on the Fourth of July before. War, trauma, and addiction are extensively explored topics in cinema across decades. What Cherry does differently is not the story it tells, but how its story is told. The Russo brothers don’t hold back when it comes to delivering a film that is poignant in emotion and grand in style. Unusual editing, slow motion, text appearing on the screen, changes in color grading and aspect ratio, and on-the-nose names for characters and locations are abound. For some, this in-your-face style of directing may be a little off-putting, but I found it refreshing and gripping. Sure, at times it comes across as a little unnecessary or self-indulgent, but, for the most, Cherry excels when it ramps up it’s strangeness. This is a weird movie. The Russo brothers take a lot of chances stylistically and most of these choices land, while others admittedly fail (I don’t exactly understand the reasoning for including an interior shot of Tom Holland’s ass in the film). Regardless of your opinion on this style and its necessity, it’s at least gripping and sets Cherry apart from other, similar films we’ve seen in the past.
I’ll admit, when Tom Holland was first announced to play the lead role in a film about an Iraq War veteran turned drug-addicted, traumatized bank robber, I questioned this decision. Holland is terrific in the MCU films and has delivered fantastic turns in The Impossible and The Lost City of Z. But between Netlflix’s The Devil All the Time and Apple’s Cherry, Holland is asserting himself as one of the most compelling movie stars working today. Holland commands every moment he is on the screen, which is essentially every second. The film wouldn’t work unless an actor of Holland’s presence and versatility could play so many different iterations of such a difficult role as the character’s life over years is portrayed. Holland is brilliantly complemented by Ciara Bravo, who plays Holland’s character’s girlfriend in the film. Similar to Holland, Bravo expertly portrays different angles of her character as her journey unfolds in unexpected ways.
Cherry is structured into chapters, which makes the film feel grander (probably grander than it really is). The film somewhat loses steam amidst the middle mark, but picks up steam as it goes along from there. At 141 minutes, Cherry does lean on the longer side with the pacing dragging just a tad in the latter chapters.
Cherry is likely to leave a lasting impression on many. Despite its rather formulaic premise and narrative, the Russo brothers infuse a wealth of uncanny stylistic choices that (for the most part) kept me interested and invested throughout.
Anchored by stellar performances from Holland and Bravo, Cherry overcomes its formulaic story with a heightened and unexpected style by the Russo brothers.
Images courtesy of Apple