Many people have been anticipating this film for what feels like ages, and maybe it has been, but I can tell you firsthand that it was worth the wait that it took to get here. Cherry is written by Joe and Anthony Russo, formally known as the Russo Brothers, and adapted from Nico Walker’s novel Cherry. It follows Tom Holland in the title role, Cherry, who is a disenfranchised young man from Cleveland that meets the love of his life Emily (Ciara Bravo) at college. He risks losing her through a multitude of bad decisions and enlists himself in the Army where he goes through training to be a medic. When he returns home, he struggles with not just PTSD, but also an opiate addiction that quickly turns sour spiraling into harder drugs. In order to fund the addiction after draining all of his finances, he turns to robbing banks.
Having to portray and talk about heavy and real subjects like drug abuse and trauma on screen is something that a lot of people struggle with, and rightfully so. However, Bravo and Holland carry these roles with caution, not taking them lightly and certainly dealing with them carefully. Holland takes on several roles in this movie, from student to junkie to soldier, he plays them convincingly. In a conversation with Emily on the phone, it becomes a lot for him as he relives the struggles of having to see those around him perish. Having to then watch him return home and see his battle — internal and external — just beginning is the most heartbreaking aspect. His story is vulnerable and raw and it proves Holland’s range, that he’s capable of holding the lead in any film he is in. He captivates the audience in devastating ways in every part of his journey.
Bravo portrays Emily, an out-of-state college girl that Cherry meets in class. Seeing Bravo’s progression to her eventual snap and nose dive into the world of drugs and all that inhabits it with Cherry, will break your heart. As the female lead, she embraces it and her character, leaving it all out on the table. Emily is integral to Cherry’s story, and Bravo’s onscreen dynamic with Holland coupled with their chemistry and dialogue make for an intense piece of cinema. It’s clear that Cherry and Emily are both unsure about aspects of their lives when they first meet, and as their relationship evolves and spirals, they rely on each other just to keep going.
The Russo’s themselves have a knack for filming movies in their hometown, so to take on this film which was already set in Cleveland was a match made. No matter the scene, a lot of times it felt like a more personal experience that the viewer was taken on. Some shots are close-ups, others are in the first person, and that’s definitely something to take away from the style of Cherry. It’s set up as chronicled “chapters” of his life so in a way, you’re growing with him and feeling every emotion that he is experiencing. Also, there is a lovely cameo in the film that fans of the Russo Brothers will enjoy, albeit a short one, it was definitely a moment to appreciate.
Speaking of the Russo’s, they are also really great at finding the right balance between comedy and tragedy. While the storytelling and subjects surrounding it are serious in nature, at the end of the day it is still something meant to entertain people. They were careful not to oversaturate and this is also a testament to Holland; while many people are used to seeing him play a quirky teenage Peter Parker, he was able to tap into those roots and deliver as the lead of something drastically different.
Without spoiling too much or at all, the ending to this film is one of the most memorable parts and definitely a change of pace to the rest of the tone. If you’ve read the novel or are a fan of those involved and are questioning if you should watch it, I highly recommend giving it a try. Between the experimental visuals and cinematography, the scoring, and of course the heart-wrenching clinic that both Holland and Bravo put on, it’s hard to imagine why it wouldn’t at least be considered this award season.
Cherry lands in theaters tomorrow, February 26, and on Apple TV+ March 12.