Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Gandolfini
Actor Tom Holland takes on a new avatar in the latest Apple TV + original, Cherry, helmed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo. He is no longer a superhero, playing characters like Spiderman (from the Marvel Cinematic Universe). He is Cherry (though we get to know his name only half way through). He is a weakling. As his lover and later wife, Emily (Ciara Bravo), tells him in the beginning, “I am attracted to weak men”.
That she sure is, putting up with him for all his follies, and in the bargain, getting sucked into the terrifying pit of drug addiction, cocaine in this case. When she falls seriously ill and has to be rushed to hospital, Emily’s mother asks Cherry to walk away. Which he does, but will she let him go?
The movie, broken up into five chapters with a prologue and an epilogue as well, begins as a college romance with Cherry falling for the pretty and good natured Emily. I love you, he says too quickly, and a bewildered Emily runs away and decides to settle down in Montreal away from her home in Ohio. She wants to study there, and a shattered Cherry joins the US Army as a medic and goes to Iraq. And the film takes us through the same old boring training – with Yes Sergeant and No Sergeant – and the bloody battle scenes, where we see sheer horror (with the gut of an injured soldier out!). Some of these visuals are disturbing to the core.
After his stint with the army, Cherry returns home and to Emily (who actually does not go away), but the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with continuous noises in his head drives him to take solace in drugs. But where is the money for this? So, he begins to rob banks and gets deeper and deeper into substance abuse, dragging poor Emily along. She is willing to check into rehab but not without him. He refuses.
The Russo Brothers have created a rather poor work where nothing appears real. The military training and battle scenes look like a deflated balloon, and can you imagine Cherry walking into banks with a $ 100 bill that says “I have a gun, give me the money”. The tellers, all women, are placidly obedient, and our hero does not even bother to cover his face!
All this takes 142 minutes of narration, which has a liberal voice-over. Pray why? Is this not an archaic way of telling a story (which reminded me of the Hindi television serials)? . There is nothing much to rave about the action sequences, and except for Bravo, who is lovely as a helpless girl in love, the casting is all wrong. Holland is no good, and is deeply disappointing – a contrast to his Spiderman performances.
In the end, one wonders whether Cherry was some sort of fulfilment for the directors’ hidden passion. Yes, the film does make an attempt to emphasise the region’s drug crisis and the devastating trauma of young American soldiers post the conflicts in Iraq and other parts of the world. The technique is distracting, and our attention keeps taking frequent walks.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is a movie critic and author of a biography of Adoor Gopalakrishnan)