Based on Nico Walker’s novel of the same name, Cherry tells the story of an Army veteran who becomes a bank robber in order to support his drug addiction after he comes back from the war in Iraq with PTSD. With such a great premise and strong production values, especially with Marvel’s Russo Brothers’ at the helm, this adaptation should have been a solid drama. Instead, a bloated, messy story coupled with self-indulgent editing and the excessive use of slow-motion that puts Zack Snyder’s 300 to shame, and you’re left with a viewing experience that’s far from enjoyable.
When we meet Cherry (Tom Holland) he’s already a veteran bank robber. But how did he get to this point in his life? Well he’s going to tell you with A LOT of narration as he breaks down his life into key chapters.
It all starts innocently enough when he meets Emily (Ciara Bravo) at college and they fall in love. After a seemingly perfect courtship, Emily abruptly announces she is going to study in Montreal which would end the relationship. Cherry’s solution to being dumped is to join the United States Army as a medic. But after he enlists, Emily tells him she’s not going away and is going to stay because she really does love him. Well, this is awkward.
Since it’s too late to back out of the military, Cherry decides their situation isn’t so bad because he’ll only be away for two years. They can be together when he gets back. The only problem is, when Cherry returns after a horrifying tour of Iraq he’s not the same man anymore. With unforeseen challenges added to the relationship due to Cherry’s PTSD, the young couple make some poor decisions in order to cope with their circumstances. With their lives spiralling out of control, there seems to be only one solution that can keep them out of trouble with drug dealers they owe money to: robbing banks.
Looking back over these last few paragraphs, it would be reasonable to think “how can this be a viewing experience that’s hard to enjoy?” I mean, Cherry sounds like an amazing drama. And it should be. Especially given how great the performances are from the cast.
Tom Holland is given a lot to work with here and he delivers the goods in spades. His character goes from being a young college kid being in love to being in a war zone where he’s being shot at and patching up wounded soldiers to being a junkie veteran suffering PTSD to eventually being a seasoned bank robber. It’s a fantastic role for him and he really gets to show his acting chops outside of the Spider-Man universe.
Ciara Bravo is also great playing a young woman who falls for a lovely guy who comes back from the war damaged. She nails portraying a person who has personal relationship issues due to family history and then turns to drugs when her husband returns from the war with PTSD. She doesn’t want to leave him but needs a way to cope.
What makes this one of the most painful viewing experiences despite the strong acting and the great premise is the self-indulgent editing that focuses more on visual style than trying to tell an engaging story. Directors Anthony Russo & Joes Russo (Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame), AKA the Russo Brothers, are trying so hard to be artistic with the style of Cherry that it’s actually distracting. Annoyingly so.
They’ve thrown so many visual elements in this film that it reminds me when amateur video editors get their first copy of the Premiere Pro video editing program and use ALL the video transitions in their short film. Or when amateur desktop publishers use ALL the fonts when they make their very first poster. Designers, you know what I’m talking about.
Except instead of transitions or fonts, the Russo Brothers do everything with regards to visuals from chapter titles, split screen, black & white that fades into color, aspect ratio change, noticeable depth of field or screen blur, breaking the 4th wall, and excessive, excessive slow motion. So much slow motion. So much slow motion that I think this alone contributes to what should be a 100 minute movie blowing out to 142 minutes.
There’s not enough story in this to warrant that runtime and after an hour of a disjointed script being mostly narrated to you in slow motion, you can’t wait for it to end. And then your heart sinks when you realize that at the hour mark, you’re not even halfway through it yet.
Cherry is a hard watch. Not because of the content (which is the bit that should make it hard to watch, given the topic), but because of how it’s been cut together. It feels like the producers wanted something in the vein of Requiem For A Dream, but are trying way too hard. While I do admit the scenes set in boot camp and the war in Iraq were entertaining because I enjoy war movies, the drama sandwiching either side of the military parts of the story drags on and on and in the end you just don’t care about the characters. If you want a depressing movie about addiction then save yourself the time and watch Requiem For A Dream instead, it’s a better movie.