There is something entirely odd and quite shocking about the Russo Brothers’ jump from years of doing Marvel films to something like Cherry. However, that isn’t a constraint, but a tool of liberation. Given their massive success, it’s clear that the brothers were pretty much able to tackle any project they desired. And, wow, did they go the ambitious route. Though it sure paid off as Cherry, starring none other than Tom Holland, is a bold, riveting, and often harrowing experience.
Holland is set to revolutionize his image with this intense and fiery performance. Known for his role as the MCU’s Spider-Man, Cherry is the next big step in establishing him as an even greater actor outside of his now-iconic Marvel role, following his impressive turnaround last year in The Devil All The Time. Not only because of both films’ considerably darker tones, but because they give Holland extensive room to breathe. Cherry highlights his ability to play a shifting range of emotions, sometimes his inner anxieties ache and almost ooze through the screen.
The film follows Nico Walker (Tom Holland), a young man whose life gets turned upside down by a wild range of irresponsible choices. It all starts when he meets the love of his life, Emily (Ciara Bravo). Their relationship blossoms at first, but things sour quickly when Emily chooses to leave Ohio. This sets off a chain of events that follow Nico through the military and touring Iraq at the peak of the U.S conflict in the mid-2000s. During his service, he endures truly horrific experiences that make him question himself and how he got there. After coming back home and receiving a medal of honor, more bad decisions spiral down to him becoming a bank robber, progressively taking on bigger and bigger challenges. Ultimately, it all comes down to him losing his life or his greatest love, or both.
Cherry leaves a lasting, unforgettable impact. Its stylistic elements are invigorating, allowing a dynamic relationship between Nico’s state of mind and the visuals on screen. Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography is dynamic and is perhaps the best part of the film. There is a 9-minute sequence, in particular, that is the best of what makes Cherry so profoundly engaging. A sudden shift in aspect ratio and lenses constantly arrive, jumping into Nico’s mindset of how he perceives things. In this instance, it’s all about the army. The absurdism of the army’s vigorous training is amplified through Sigel’s cinematic touch. Much of the film sees these dramatic shifts in style, the Russos and Sigel’s collaboration is quite incredible as they push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. Even though constantly shifting, the team’s use of color, framing, and lenses all intentionally work towards a way of expressing the characters’ inner conflict with acidic intensity.
The aforementioned effect of not only seeing the Russos, but also Holland, in a non-Marvel project this explicit and extremely dark is quite the shock. Yet, nearly all of Cherry‘s elements add up and one almost instantly forgets. Although the film isn’t without problems. It has an overly-long runtime which drags a little during the lead up to the third act. This sees Holland and Bravo going on a Goodfellas-like trip that becomes a little exhausting and would have benefitted with some trimming. However, as the film delves into the darkest of moments, the actors shine. Through their brilliance and aided by Sigel’s feast of great visuals, such extremes are met that one might find themselves overwhelmed.
Nonetheless, Cherry is a profoundly dark and stylistically engaging film. It’s a long, sprawling journey that encompasses much within its chapters. It’s a lot to take in upon a first watch. Tom Holland is a revolution, he builds himself a clean slate in this film which will surely set him down a great, never-ending path of amazing performances after or during his long-lasting tenure as Marvel’s Spider-Man.