Directors Anthony and Joe Russo know how to make a big, long, complicated story. They also know how to make a story big, complicated and long.
The 400-Word Review: Cherry
By Sean Collier
March 18, 2021
The brothers spent much of the last decade tasked with pulling off the most ambitious bit of cohesive, serialized entertainment in film history. Through the two “Avengers” films that served as a culmination for Marvel’s 20-year experiment — as well as the two “Captain America” pictures that led most directly into that superhero hootenanny — the pair did yeoman’s work at converting an impossibly complex, formless parade of story beats into a popular entertainment.
As is well demonstrated in “Cherry,” the first film the pair have completed since “Endgame,” that’s a mixed blessing. The pair clearly knows how to take an unwieldy story — like, say, a semi-autobiographical novel, a form notorious for not converting easily to film — and make it watchable, lively and interesting. They also seem to want to turn everything, including this relatively small tale, into an “Avengers,” disinterested in moving smoothly from point A to point B.
The story is an interesting one for the Russo treatment. Based on the novel of the same name by Nico Walker, “Cherry” follows an unnamed protagonist through his life’s tragedy and potential redemption. Our subject (Tom Holland) impulsively joins the Armed Forces after his college girlfriend, Emily (Ciara Bravo), announces she’s leaving town and ending things.
He’s trained and shipped to Iraq as an Army Medic, where he witnesses a parade of horrors and the deaths of most of his company. When he’s finally discharged, post-traumatic stress disorder is treated with opioids; that addiction swiftly flows into heroin, shared with Emily, who stuck around after all only to get swept into self-destruction.
It’s a bleak story, to be sure, and one that does not have much insight on PTSD or addiction beyond surface-level portrayals of unpleasantness. Holland and Bravo do their level best, but are somewhat constrained by the undeniable fact of their babyfaces; both look much younger than they are, and can’t be fully credible as broken-down addicts.
It’s up to the Russo brothers, then, who certainly make the narrative dance as much as they are able. “Cherry” has a bold, inventive structure, demonstrating the brothers’ skill with tangled story threads. It may, however, have been better served with a stripped down, less ambitious treatment. The film works, but almost incidentally.
My Rating: 6/10
“Cherry” is streaming on Apple TV+.