Having secured the highest grossing movie of all time with Avengers: Endgame, the Russo brothers venture into the drama genre with Cherry, but it’s Tom Holland who blossoms. The film is adapted from US Army veteran turned felon Nico Walker’s autobiographical novel of the same name. College dropout Cherry (Holland) finds himself enrolling in the army following a breakup with his girlfriend (played by a captivating Ciara Bravo). Returning from war with PTSD, it isn’t long before Cherry succumbs to drug addiction, eventually robbing banks to fund his habit.
Like a quick fix, viewers experience short-lived bursts of engaging escapism, aided by some superb cinematography and impressive effects, particularly during the war sequences – but these fleeting moments are soon replaced by the sobering drone of clunky and convoluted storytelling. The screenplay is overlong and drawn-out, which of course reduces the pace to an amble when there is a demand for far more urgency.
Segmenting the film into self-contained chapters prevents it from feeling cohesive, instead establishing a formulaic feel. This is at odds with the stylistic elements incorporated throughout, with certain aspects echoing Wes Anderson before changing gear into The Basketball Diaries via some Scorsese. Filmic influences are more than apparent, making Cherry disappointingly derivative.
The structure also reminds audiences they are watching an adaptation of a novel, and certain storytelling devices should have stayed in this medium. The narration, for example, needs a drastic edit and renders the experience turgid in parts. It’s a real shame because there is undoubtedly the blueprint of a riveting character-driven drama here, but it is let down by its over-eager execution. The Russo brothers seem determined to showcase their skills and talents beyond the Marvel universe. That’s all well and good, but the more than capable and esteemed directors subsequently come across as trying too hard.
Like Leonardo DiCaprio, Ewan McGregor and Timothée Chalamet before him, Holland masters his portrayal of an addict and embraces the weighty material, using it to exhibit extraordinary acting skills in the process. It’s his most mature performance to date and promises an exciting future for the versatile and talented young star. The actor carries the film, reining in viewers’ attention even when some questionable creative choices unintentionally detach them.
Cherry is released on Apple TV+ on 12th March 2021.
Watch the trailer for Cherry here: