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MOVIES: Cherry - Review

Most directors make their multi-million-dollar blockbuster movie first and their student film second; but it’s clear that Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers behind Avengers: Endgame, a film that was still being made at the same time most of the real-life events in this movie were taking place, have gone the other way round – it’s a well-intentioned but misguided result of someone watching Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction back-to-back over the course of a long weekend and taking notes. It feels all too superficial because of this approach to the life of ex-Army soldier turned drug addict Cherry, who embarks on a path of seemingly no return, haunted by the horrors of war upon returning home.

It’s an ambitious character study that runs for an epic one hundred and forty minutes, but that one hundred and forty minutes almost feels too short for the story that Cherry is trying to tell. Adapted from Nico Walker’s autobiographical novel, the film pulls no punches and goes all-in on pretty much everything. Holland is the perfect casting choice to play a 20-year old as unlike most 30-somethings cast as 20-somethings he actually looks the part, and looks the part in style. Much like with Ciara Bravo, who plays Cherry’s girlfriend and later wife Emily, both actors give it their all in a pair of humanising and empathetic performances that do much of the heavy lifting. The problems don’t lie with the performances, and after Cherry, despite its flaws, and it is a flawed movie, Holland’s star will only continue to rise (and hopefully, Bravo’s will too. She makes the absolute most out of an underutilised part). Cherry falls into exactly the same trap that Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie did almost to a fault – it’s an issue that largely lies with the script and direction that does it no favours, it’s a messy, intentionally-so movie where nothing fully comes together.

I admire the decision to tell a different genre with every chapter of Cherry’s life as it adds up to the feeling of the sense of a disorganised lifestyle that comes with Cherry’s turbulent narrative and who he is as a person, but the film falls short at the final hurdle. Its script can’t quite make out whether it’s trying to be funny or serious, and the jokes don’t land – nothing here is funny, there’s a shot of the interior of the protagonist’s arsehole that sadly, is the most memorable thing about the movie just because of how absurd and weird it is. It’s one of the weirdest scenes of a movie so far in 2021; and is a testament to the fact that not once during production at any point were the Russo Brothers ever told “hey, maybe this is a bad idea”. For better or for worse, they go all in – and the end result feels like best left forgotten, the peak example of a modern streaming service film (save only perhaps for my film that I’ll be reviewing): designed to be talked about for the week of its release and forgotten by the next week when new content came out. In better, smarter hands, Cherry could have been AppleTV+’s answer to The Queen’s Gambit – a seven or so episode miniseries. But instead; in the hands of the Russos, who its becoming more and more clear with every passing day peaked at Community, it’s the worst thing the streamer has had to offer us so far.

Cherry is so artificial, superficial and forced it makes Avengers: Endgame look like it has the same amount of emotional depth as The Leftovers. It’s wholly generic despite its good intentions: how many times before have we seen a similar story? How many times before have we seen a similar story spectacularly miss the mark? Nothing here looks like a “Russo Brothers” movie, whatever that is. It reeks of them trying to respond to Martin Scorsese’s comment about Marvel cinematic universe movies being theme-park rides by claiming that they’re serious directors and doing everything they can to try and prove that point. Their press statements feel like they’re trying to back this up, but nothing feels entirely accurate; they talk the talk but they don’t really leave an impression. The trailers that proclaim the Russos as “visionary directors” of Avengers: Endgame is just as bad as the term “visionary director Zack Snyder”. Nothing about any of their careers’ so far feels like they've quite earned the title and instead it feels like the ultimate example of a director's ego getting the better of them.



Cherry was released yesterday on AppleTV+.