Movie Review: Cherry (2021)

Natalie Lindsey | @justmenat_

Joe and Anthony Russo are the names behind some of the biggest Marvel movies to date such as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Avengers: Endgame,” as well as movies such as Netflix’s “Extraction” starring Chris Hemsworth and “21 Bridges” with the late Chadwick Boseman. The brothers have now added another non-marvel film with a familiar marvel actor to their roster. 

“Cherry” stars Tom Holland as Nico Walker ( I don’t think he is ever directly called by his name in the film), a regular kid from Ohio who goes from your normal, middle-class college student to a struggling drug addict after a tour in Iraq. When I saw the first full trailer for this movie, I was cautious but intrigued. Addiction and trauma are difficult subjects to bring to the big screen no matter how often they tend to be there. I always go into these films expecting to be disappointed with stereotypes and poor judgment calls. While “Cherry” is probably one of the better films I have seen with these driving points, it is most certainly not without its flaws. 

First, let’s start with the bad. “Cherry” is adapted from a book of the same name,  which is based on a real person’s life. I understand that the filmmakers wanted everything to be as accurate as possible, not only to its early 2000s time period, but to the real veteran the story came from. However, some of the language used, in my opinion, was not necessary. The outdated and now discouraged language did nothing but distract from the dialogue and plot points.

 Outside of the poor decisions of language, the pace of the movie is unbalanced. Maybe that was a stylistic decision to encompass the different passages of time for the character, but to me as a viewer, it did the film a disservice. The film also includes a few too many graphic depictions of substance abuse. One or two of these scenes is one thing, but I don’t think this aspect of the film needed as much attention as what it had. 

I’ll close with what the film achieved. First, Holland was absolutely phenomenal in the film. This was a great role to break him out of the Spider-Man mold and he hit it out of the park. He was raw and intense while bringing a consistently fluctuating sense of innocence to a character you immediately feel for. Ciara Bravo’s performance in the supporting role as Emily brings the same raw intensity, and the chemistry between the two begs an Oscar nomination. 

This film handles the deepest dark side of trauma-based mental health disorders in a way I have yet to see in a film, and I appreciate it immensely. When you look at the portrayals of mental health in the media they are often either brushed over and diminished, or harmfully dramatized for views. These portrayals do nothing but further stigmatize an issue that needs complete acceptance. “Cherry” tackles PTSD, anxiety, and depression in a way that allows people to not only see and understand their onset, but understand why and how they function. Addiction is just one of the many paths these mental struggles can lead to that the film explores. 

“Cherry” includes some incredible examples of cinematography as well. I was truly blown away by some of the beautifully shot scenes, amazing colors, and editing.

Overall, “Cherry” is a very intense ride through the turmoil of trauma and those it impacts. Movies don’t often bring these issues full screen, and for doing so, I respect “Cherry.” Some of the issues I had with the movie, however, detracted from the things I liked quite a bit. If you’re able to handle traumatic scenes and deep subject matter, you may enjoy this film, but if you’re not in a place for that I wouldn’t recommend watching this. In other words, viewer discretion is advised.