Cherry (2021) Film Review

Thomas Farrell, Contributor

2021’s Cherry is the first post-Marvel project for the Russo brothers, who are best known for directing quite possibly the most successful film trilogy in history, the last three Avengers movies. As such, there was a fair bit of hype around this new release, which stars Spiderman actor Tom Holland in its leading role as the titular character, Cherry. What makes the film so interesting is that it is a far cry from anything the directors or Holland have ever done before, as it’s the story of a completely broken Army veteran addicted to opioids who resorts to robbing banks to maintain his habit. That’s not exactly on par with the comedies or family-friendly action schlock they’ve been known for so far! Unfortunately, Cherry does little to distinguish itself amidst a field of other films that explore similar themes, characters, and story beats to better effect.

The primary battlefield upon which Cherry fails to captivate is with its story. Split into five parts, with an additional prologue and epilogue; it’s structured much like a novel. So unsurprisingly, it turns out it’s based on a semi-autobiographical book of the same name by the author Nico Walker. While I have no doubt this story works well in the written word, the screen adaption here is sub-par.

The film starts with an idealistic romance between Cherry and a college classmate named Emily. It turns sour when Emily says she wants to study in Montreal. Broken-hearted, Cherry enlists in the Army to fight in the Middle East in the wake of 9/11. Emily realizes her mistake and says she loves Cherry, but it’s already too late as he must leave for basic training. Before that, however, they get married. Cherry has far from an ideal experience overseas and comes back an opioid-addicted wreck, a lifestyle he quickly drags his new wife into. Things spiral out of control, and before long, Cherry is unemployed and in debt. Consequently, he starts robbing banks to manage his habit and stay alive.

The main issue with this plot is how generic and played out these themes, and story beats are. Each “part” of the film handles one specific story-beat, such as Cherry’s time in the Army. Unfortunately, each part ends up feeling like a condensed, poor-man version of a better movie. The section spent in the Army is akin to Jarhead minus the wit, while the one dealing with the highs and lows of his drug habit feels like Trainspotting minus the style and characters. Even the bank-robbing sequences do little to make the film stand out, as it’s obvious how each one of them will end, and they succumb to the same tropes seen in every heist movie since the inception of the genre.

Stylistically and technically, it’s not very impressive either. While the high production values afford some impressive sequences and clever camera movements, the Russo brothers seldom let the camera sit still with our characters. Instead, it is in near-constant motion, which gave me a headache. Also giving me a headache was the melancholic score from Henry Jackman, which plays for almost the movie’s entire runtime. Several scenes would’ve benefited from the absence of music, but the generic, low-key ambiance afforded by it is constant throughout. Other critics had issues with the over-reliance on weird video filters, but I quite liked them as they gave Cherry a quirky bit of life that is desperately needed.

While, for the most part, Cherry fails to impress, the lead performance from Tom Holland is fantastic. I’ve never been a big fan of the man, but he certainly delivers here. The greatest praise I can give him is you forget Holland is an actor, and you solely view him as the character. Given it’s such a significant departure from his usual roles, it’s exciting to see him do as well as he does here.

Given it’s such a significant departure from his usual roles, it’s exciting to see him do as well as he does here.

Cherry might offer some entertainment if you aren’t burnt out on this style of movie, but with a runtime of almost two and a half hours, it’s hard to recommend to anyone. For those who are interested, it’s available to stream on the dismal Apple TV+, which severely lacks anything worthwhile to watch. Unfortunately, Cherry does little to change that.