Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Forrest Goodluck and Jeff Wahlberg
Run time: 2h 20min
After spending the last few years marvelling at Thor’s hammer and polishing Captain America’s shield, the Russo brothers swap super heroes for super soldiers in Cherry, coming soon to select cinemas and Apple TV+. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Nicholas Walker, some of the fantastical elements of their story-telling remains, but this is a dark, dirty and drug-fuelled departure for them.
Tom Holland’s pill-popping, deliberately unnamed student falls in love with the wholesome Emily (Ciara Bravo). After their relationship fails, he joins the army as she prepares to leave for college. Quickly realising they can’t live without each other, they get back together and give their romance one last shot. After getting married, he completes his training as a medic and promptly ships off to join the Iraq War as Emily continues her studies.
Upon his return, undiagnosed PTSD causes his life to spiral out of control, dragging Emily down with him. Poor choices of friends, continued substance abuse and eventually armed robbery bring tragedy to his already desperate life. With the highs come the lows and these are explored with an unflinching graphicness as redemption always seems to be just beyond his reach.
The Russo brothers have created an intriguingly distorted and quirky world with flashbacks and a narrative split into different parts. The fourth wall is regularly broken by Holland whilst their use of colour reflects a certain character’s mood. In an Ecstasy induced stupor, Holland’s world is filtered with calm, pale colours until he sees Emily, radiant in pinks and reds. The film’s focus, however, is in highlighting the many corporations and individuals that form part of the system that have failed so many Veterans in the past. Here we have banks called The Bank or Shitty Bank and as Holland’s condition worsens, there’s even a Doctor Whoever. His disillusionment with those in power deepens and anyone thinking about signing up for a career in the military will most definitely think twice after watching this film.
With this rather stylised introduction and an occasionally clunky script, the opening half an hour veers dangerously close to being pretentious, but that’s all forgotten when the bullets begin to fly. Not ones to shy away from a battle scene, the Russo brothers make sure the brutal reality of war is brought to life in horrifically vivid detail.
Tom Holland is exceptional. Showcasing an intense vulnerability, wreaking of desperation and with an arrogant, reckless contempt for his life and those closest to him, his descent into addiction is a compelling watch. Cherry proves that there’s so much more to him than spinning webs. Not to be outdone is Ciara Bravo. Starting off as the all-American girl next door, the journey she undertakes, purely because of love, is heart-breaking and it’s a superb performance.
Cherry is a hard-hitting and emotionally charged insight into how war heroes have been treated in America and their struggle with identity. Featuring two outstanding lead turns, the Russo brothers explore the psychological battles soldiers must face every day as they attempt to navigate the challenges that reintegrating into society brings. Not an easy watch, but an enthralling one.
Cherry is available to pick on Apple TV+ from 12Th March.