Cherry is both the best and worst 140 minutes you will spend watching a movie if you have ever loved someone with an addiction or want a glimpse into the window of the life of an addict. Make sure you have some tissues handy because there is a good chance you're in for an ugly cry.
Finding the right words to describe Cherry is nearly impossible, but I'll try. Here's the quick summary: Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo are everything in Cherry, an epic odyssey of romance, war, drug addiction, and crime, where a young man named Cherry (Tom Holland) struggles to find his place in the world.
Cherry Film Review
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (yes, the Russo Brothers who directed Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame) is a 6-chapter film that follows Cherry (Holland) and Emily (Bravo) from college into adulthood, through a 15-year journey. The directorial vision that the Russos brought to Cherry is vastly different than what you see in an action-packed superhero blockbuster, but thought-provoking and every bit as detail-oriented and profound.
The couple falls in love. Cherry enlists in the Army, goes through Basic Training, and does a tour in Iraq as an Army medic. As you might expect, Cherry has PTSD from his time in Iraq and turns to drug use to cope. Heroin—being the easiest drug to access at the time—is his coping mechanism of choice and Emily gets addicted, too. Eventually, he robs a bank to pay for their habit, and we follow the couple through their dark descent as they grapple with opioid addiction.
Cherry is an adaptation of a novel
The film Cherry is adapted from the semiautobiographical novel of the same name by Nico Walker.
In Walker's novel, Emily is only portrayed through the narrator's eyes. In the film adaptation, Emily is much more of a three-dimensional character and integral to the plot. She has struggles of her own, which in my opinion, are problematic for Cherry, despite the fact that he sees her as a sanctuary from his own demons.
Holland and Bravo did the work
In order to prep for the roles both Holland and Bravo did months of prep and research to be as authentic as they could to the roles, as neither had struggles with sobriety.
In a Q&A I sat in on last month with Joe and Anthony Russo through Film Independent, they talked about some of what Holland and Bravo did for their roles. Holland really leaned into the role, including losing 30 pounds and gaining it back within a short period of time.
While filming in Cleveland, Bravo and Holland visited a rehab facility where they spoke to outpatients and employees for insight into the challenges of sobriety. Holland also worked with a recovering addict on set as a consultant to ensure the integrity of the addition and drug use of the story. They even used real needles in the drug scenes to make it look as authentic as possible.
And they are BRILLIANT. Both of them. While we all know Tom Holland as Spider-man in the MCU, he has depth and does other genres, as well. But this performance was perfection. Heartwrenching, raw, and so gritty. And Bravo sure has grown up and into her own since her “Big Time Rush” days.
Why Cherry is SO Important
To have a story that's tackling topics like PTSD and severe addiction is raw, relevant, and honest. Not only is it rare, but it's also needed. Mental health, addiction, stigma, and the relationship between them are very real. These are conversations we should be having and Cherry is bringing awareness to the problem.
As a society, we tend to put a huge stigma on addiction. But the fact of the matter is that it is an illness. Drug addiction is a substance abuse disorder, meaning it's a disease that affects the brain.
Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person's brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you're addicted, you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. –Mayo Clinic
Why Cherry Works
It's incredibly challenging to discuss tough topics in a way that makes them tolerable or enjoyable in a film. Cherry does an exceptional job at laying in some dark humor and light moments alongside some extremely dark and devastating material. Cherry tells the tough story of addition without glamorizing it, and that isn't an easy task. Holland and Bravo give us a performance that is raw, vulnerable, and unhinged, and the Russos show us the trajectory of the couple's lives, for better and for worse, through a series of different lenses, including the use of Holland breaking the fourth wall.
Cherry follows the wild journey of a disenfranchised young man from Ohio who meets the love of his life, only to risk losing her through a series of bad decisions and challenging life circumstances. Inspired by the best-selling novel of the same name, Cherry features Tom Holland in the title role as an unhinged character who drifts from dropping out of college to serving in Iraq as an Army medic and is only anchored by his one true love, Emily (Ciara Bravo). When Cherry returns home a war hero, he battles the demons of undiagnosed PTSD and spirals into drug addiction, surrounding himself with a menagerie of depraved misfits. Draining his finances, Cherry turns to bank robbing to fund his addiction, shattering his relationship with Emily along the way. Brought to the screen in bold, gritty fashion by visionary directors Anthony and Joe Russo, Cherry is a darkly humorous, unflinching coming-of-age story of a man on a universal quest for purpose and human connection.
Cherry will premiere in select theaters on February 26, 2021, and globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, March 12, 2021.