Spending the better part of the last decade making gargantuan films for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Russo Brothers try to return to form with Cherry. Unfortunately, they don’t live up to their reputation.
Cherry is based on the 2018 autobiographical book by debutant author, Nico Walker. It follows the trials and tribulations of an unnamed narrator (Tom Holland) that is divided into five parts — including an epilogue and a prologue — that shape his life story.
The film follows him as a 23-year-old college student as he falls in love with Emily (Ciara Bravo), another student in his English class.
When he confesses his love for Emily too soon, she freaks out and plans to move to Montreal, Canada for further studies, to get away from him. Heartbroken and devastated, he decides to cope with his breakup by joining the United States Army. Emily realises that she made a mistake but the narrator explains to her that he must go join the army and she should continue with her studies in Montreal. They admit their love for each other and get married.
Cherry follows the narrator through the Iraq war, his PTSD, the development of his and Emily’s heroin and pill addiction that finally leads him to become a serial bank robber.
Tom Holland plays the unnamed narrator based on Nico Walker, the author of the original book with the same title. Nico’s journey has been long and tragic with several ups and downs in life. Romance, war, addiction; Holland portrays a myriad of emotions as his character struggles in all these situations and more.
Since he managed to hold his ground in the excellent 2020 film, ‘The Devil All the Time’, among such a talented ensemble cast, it comes as no surprise that he can be the sole protagonist and point of attention in more mature films than Spider-Man series.
Ciaro Bravo has her moments as Emily. Initially, Bravo does not have much to work with as her character is quite one-note. She is just an object of the narrator’s adoration and nothing else. But, she really comes to her own in the second half of the film where she struggles to live with her husband, the narrator, who is suffering from PTSD and addiction.
Her performance is equally as heart-breaking and manic as Holland’s performance in these scenes. Cherry has a vast supporting cast but none of them really get a chance to stand out or display much of their skills.
The directors of Cherry, the Russo Brothers, are known all over the globe for their work on Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), Civil War (2016) and Avengers: Infinity War(2018) and Endgame (2019). But before they made formulaic Marvel films, they directed episodes on two of the most creative and genius shows on television, Dan Harmon’s Community and Mitchell Hurwitz’s Arrested Development.
So it was not a surprise to see them take creative and experimental directorial choices in Cherry. There is a lot going on in the film at once, and not just the story. The colour, music, cinematography, editing is radically different and their efforts to go above and beyond must be appreciated.
The film looks beautiful. The cinematography, lighting and production design come together seamlessly to create something unique but real. The war and army scenes are especially recreated very well by the production designer, Philip Ivey.
Henry Jackman’s classical score with the violin and piano is tragic and soulful and creates the perfect tone for the scenes as intended by the Russo Brothers.
Cherry is too much. It goes overboard in every which way. The direction seems over-indulgent. In an attempt to come off as cool and stylish, the film devolves into a frantic mess. The worst part about all of it, is without a doubt, its confused and beserk editing. It does not give the viewer enough time to soak in the scenes and emotions before cutting away.
Cherry’s direction, as mentioned before, is unique and has its own distinct voice. The tragedy is that it makes the film unbearable at times. The story itself has so many things going on at once. It is a romantic film, war film, addiction tragedy and a heist film all at once. The events are reminiscent of Forrest Gump but then the direction and editing feel like a toned-down Scott Pilgrim vs The World. As a result, the tone of the film is all over the place too. It is not consistent at all.
The break in the fourth wall of the film is unmotivated and unnecessary. The narration itself is meaningless at its best and overly expository at its worst. It is easy to see how the anecdotal style narration must have worked as in the novel, but unfortunately, it does not translate well in the film.
To make matters worse, the dialogue in Cherry is terrible, initially. The narration barely stitches such scenes together to make the first half of the film. It does improve slightly in the second half though but the narration does not.
Tom Holland and the Russo Brothers come together to create something different. It does not successfully pan out in every way but it a respectable attempt with great performances and an intriguing, tragic backstory based on real events.