IMDb Link: Cherry (2021)
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Angela Russo-Otstot, Jessica Goldberg, Nico Walker
Synopsis: An Army medic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder becomes a serial bank robber after an addiction to drugs puts him in debt.
It has been a very long time since I have been so frustrated with a film. This story is so gripping and has such weight to it, telling the story of an Army medic suffering from PTSD. It is of such a fascinated subject matter, and there are several wonderful scenes that explore this theme and the darkness of PTSD. When the film purely focuses on our leading character Cherry (Holland) and the impact of going to war, both the separation of his girlfriend and the trauma of war that causes PTSD, the film works incredibly well.
The emotion of the story is sold because of our two leading characters, played by Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo. It does take some time to believe Holland in the role, but he is able to sell the emotional moments incredibly well. However, it is Bravo who steals the film and gives the best performance here. She has a larger presence than expected, but watching her go through the situation and having to try and support her partner is so captivating to watch on screen. I never doubted her role or casting, something I found myself doing with other cast members.
The great scenes come in the second hour of the film, but it does take a while for the story to get there. The first hour of the film is some of the worst storytelling I have seen in a long time, as I was left completely confused on what the Russo Brothers wanted to achieve narratively. The first hour feels completely disconnected, is over-edited, and does not establish any major themes or narratives, purely feeling like a show-reel showing off what they can do with a camera. It is not until the Army storyline comes into play that the film starts to have some focus.
The Russo Brothers make some choices to try and take the edge off the film and create a more playful tone to the story, but I think they end up backfiring. From the jumpy editing, the use of the score, and the choice of having Cherry break the third wall, it ends up becoming distracting rather than lightening the tone or having us connect with these characters. It takes away from the emotion that is there and does shine but becomes a second thought.
After what is a wonderful section of the film that delves deep into PTSD and the impact it can have on a young life, the story develops into one that is dark and horrifying. However, it once again falls into the issues that the first part of the film had in being over-edited and losing focus. If we cared and felt sympathetic for Cherry and his partner, that is all gone in the final section as they lose all character development. It becomes very hard to connect or care about the story as so much happens in such little time, and yet none of it feels substantial.
This film is incredibly long, at nearly two-and-a-half hours. When the first hour drags on and is as messy as it is, the whole introduction could have been removed. It goes for style over substance, but it hurts the narrative and doesn’t add anything to the character development, actually immediately setting a stigma and perception to Cherry. I understand that the Russo Brothers are so used to long, epic blockbusters that tie so many narratives together, but this is one that needed to be stripped back and focus on the emotion and trauma of a specific situation and moment.
There will be people who end up enjoying the journey that this film takes, and I am glad if people do end up liking it. There are some wonderful moments and scenes within the film that I do gravitate towards and that I love narratively. However, that is overshadowed by the nearly unwatchable opening, the editing choices, and the disappointing ending that fails to solidify the messages and themes of the story. This will end up being one of the biggest disappointments of 2021.
Cherry is available to watch on Apple TV on March 12th.