Ash’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I’m twenty-three years-old, and I still don’t understand what it is that people do. It’s as if all of this were built on nothing, and nothing were holding all this together.”
I struggle to find a *horrible* film in Cherry. More so, it’s the perfect indication of ambition outweighing execution and feasibility. At its weakest points, it tends to feel like a blubbering mess, drowning in its own convolutions, dizzyingly made cheap by a screenplay that feels as amateur as it is dishevelled; made disorderly by some often jarring editing. At its strongest points, it’s a vivid but simple overviewed criticism of America’s failures, as a country, as a home for its people, as a ghoulish intruder among foreign affairs, but most importantly, as a system continuously failing those it’s meant to support.
Not to say it’s not the strongest of critiques to play out in a film, but it just isn’t as extensive or branched out, yet still plays accordingly, and effectively to what it should be. Everything from the basic training to the end of the film plays out as a slow, drawn out, perhaps overlong but essential critique of America’s failure, as we see Holland’s titular Cherry dwindle from military personal to “war hero” to drug addict and criminal within a matter of years; falling down a path of dark outcomes, suffering grief and loss from his time overseas with the army, undealt with, leading to PTSD after his return home, that drives him into abusing drugs to cope with his PTSD, in turn making his wife, Emily to start abusing drugs too - to cope with his behaviour on medication - which leads them to becoming addicts, where they lose their money to addiction which in turn forces Cherry to turn to robbing banks to keep up with paying back the people he owes and for him and Emily. A diminishing path that leads down a road of deterrents and great pain, all caused by his application into entering the American military, and further perpetuated by the failure of the American system to support him after his return. It’s a basic critique that works for the film and for the path of Holland’s Cherry. And it’s concrete.
Anthony and Joe Russo’s direction actually salvage quite a bit of the screenplay, bringing much needed seriousness and focus to it. It’s certainly not spectacular but their ambition is immensely felt in it, even if it does exceed what they’re able to accomplish within the film itself.
The selling-point here has got to be Tom Holland though, who turns in a fantastic, often layered performance. Cherry was his chance to finally show off his ability and dramatic quips in a solo film of his own - unattached to any universes or iconic, famed characters, but just in a film where he’s the proper lead - and Holland sells that performance, with a sense of intimacy, and beyond that professionalism. He’s quite the power performance in this, and although it gets off to a rocky first few minutes, he eventually captures the despondency, fallibility, vulnerability and pitfalls of his character with such ranged potency and tangibility, and I mean, it’s a proper showing of the great acting Holland is capable of and the great career that lies ahead of him and his abilities.
Ultimately, Cherry is a film about feeling lost, lost in a world that is lost in itself, in a world surrounded by people who are lost, in a world that continuously fails you, no matter what. It’s distinctively human to be lost, and it’s what makes our world all the more human and flawed - much like us. Yet, even if the world is so much like us, it can be very much foreign to us, antagonistic to us, failing to support us or be true to us, and that’s where we dwindle, and fall, and Cherry is very much fresh eyes to that fall. Benign to the fact that the world and its systems are bound to fail us in some way and it’s only up to individualistic integrity and morality to realistically exist among the imperfections of such systems.
It’s a shame much of Holland’s affecting and gritty performance are bogged down by a script he manages to sell plentifully well, but despite the disparity in Cherry’s execution and its exaggerated runtime, its ambition still manages to hold steady, especially with Holland who is easily the best thing about this film.