The Russo brothers, famously known for directing the Captain America film series and the Avengers, had quite a lineup as producers in the last two years. In 2020, they produced two action films centering around war. While Extraction (2020) starring Chris Hemsworth was a decent film, Mosul (2019) took the necessary limelight. Cherry also has a war set-up but it isn’t basically a war film. It reflects the traumas of War, commonly called PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) faced by war medic.
Based on the novel written by Nico Walker, Cherry is written by Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg. The film has been directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Structurally, the film is divided into 5 parts, along with a prologue and an epilogue. The film scrolls like a novel narrated by its protagonist, Cherry (Tom Holland), who sometimes talks directly to the audience, and even breaks the fourth wall. However, with all the technical brilliance, the film lacks fundamentals, in a way, it’s all bluff and bluster. Going deep down that lane, let’s get to the premise first.
The film begins with Cherry’s voice-over who shares his agonies with the viewers. His inability to understand the world and the people, and his own life in general. The year is 2007 and Cherry enters into a bank to rob it. The whole sequence is beautifully shot, the way Cherry removes his scarf and talks to the audience breaking the fourth wall. Looking at a woman on the cash counter, Cherry remembers his past, and that’s where the first part begins.
In 2002, Cherry meets the love of his life, Emily, in college. For him, it was the beginning of the film, he had been waiting for a long time. But what’s a love story without tragedy? When Cherry confesses his love to Emily after they had been dating for long, Emily gets a bit nervous about it. She gets afraid of emotional attachment and commitment, and that is when she tells Cherry that she is leaving him, and leaving the country for higher studies.
A heartbroken Cherry, unable to face the dilemma enrolls himself in the army to run away from the pain. But soon Emily realizes her mistake and comes back. Though there is no turning back for Cherry, he has to join the army camp soon. Before leaving, the couple gets married in court and hopes to meet again, once Cherry is back.
During his stay in the army camp and placement in Iran War as a medic, Cherry suffers from PTSD. He faces the loss of friends and colleagues. A war that looked thrilling from the outside quickly turns into a nightmare. Cherry was just waiting for the servitude to end soon.
When Cherry comes back home in 2005, he was shaken up, mentally and emotionally. He couldn’t sleep and when he did, he dreamt of violence. To suppress his panic attacks, Cherry started taking pills, mostly OxyContin. Cherry was completely wasted, he couldn’t work, he was always dizzy, which worried Emily. To deal with her own frustration, Emily starts taking Cherry’s medicines and they eventually turn into a drug-inducing couple.
But their addiction wasn’t limited to pills, they started doing full-blown heroin and cocaine too. With a drug deal gone wrong, Cherry is entitled to huge debt to a guy called, Black Mask (the dealer). To pay his debt, Cherry starts robbing banks, which in turn becomes his medium to support his drug addiction later.
‘Cherry’ Ending Explained
Black Mask threatens to kill Emily if Cherry fails to pay off the full debt. To end the threads of conflict, Cherry plans a final robbery that brings us to the start of the film in 2007. He manages to pull off the robbery but the retrospection of the past pains his heart. He decides to end the struggle for once and all. In a beautiful shot scene, Cherry surrenders himself and spends 14 years in prison. When he comes out, he meets Emily who smiles looking at him. They are still wearing their wedding rings and look completely detoxed. The music and the visual suggest the arrival of their “happy together.”
All Bluff and Bluster
Cherry seems like an ambitious endeavor. The shots, the music, the treatment, everything is perfect, neat, and clean. What it lacks, is the rawness and the soul.
For example, narratively, the film is divided into parts, which is not quite new, but still intriguing. Quentin Tarantino does that a lot with his films. He breaks the structure or the formula in which screenplays are written. “Novelists have always had complete freedom to pretty much tell their story any way they saw fit. And that's what I'm trying to do.” But the film, Cherry doesn’t fail to create an impact with the way it is narrated. It isn’t gripping enough and the audience isn’t lured enough so that they vouch for the protagonist.
The film showcases influences from many great films in Cinematic history. The army camp sequences give a glimpse of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, PTSD symptoms from film-like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, and a self-destructing couple subplot from Neil Armfield’s infamous film Candy starring late Heath Ledger. Having influences isn’t wrong, but the overall picture looks like a complete mashup, rather than a complete story in itself. Again, it works like a novel, with too many subjects and it isn’t concentrated on any. It sways away your attention quickly.
There are some really beautiful montages in the films, heightened by the wonderful background scores. I felt the most gripping part of the story was narrated in these montages which the Russo brothers have shot beautifully. The montages and the voiceovers are the only elements in the film that work, but the film isn’t about montages, it is about scene, drama, and subtext. Advertisements are about montages and they sure do know how to shoot a glossy one.
Tom holland’s portrayal of a drug addict suffering from PTSD will compel you to watch Taxi Driver again. No personal bias, but the way he was shivering with panic attacks, looked funnier rather than impact. I think, in Brothers, Tobey Maguire who played the same kind of role, did more justice to it than Tom Holland in Cherry.
Cherry is a visually stunning film. However, I cannot think of any reason to recommend this film to anyone. Or if you wish to see Tom holland sporting a mustache in the end, in which he really does look cool, then do watch the film. Martin Scorsese once said, “But that’s not cinema” for a Russo brothers’ film and if they are going to keep making these kinds of films, then the word of the master might muster some more audience. Hope to see some better cinematic films coming out from their lot.
Cherry is streaming on Apple TV+
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