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“Cherry”: Tom Holland and the Russo brothers beyond Marvel

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

The actor and famous filmmakers embark on a journey outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s messier and harder to watch.

The awaited new Tom Holland movie Cherry recently premiered on Apple TV, and as many Spiderman fans out there, I couldn’t wait to watch. The story begins with Holland’s character about to rob a bank. He looks disheveled and he’s narrating how lost he’s feeling, though it’s not very clear how this 23-year-old young man got to this point. Luckily, the film quickly takes us back to the beginning. The young protagonist is attending a community college where he introduces us to his low-life friends that are debating if one of them should or should not join the marines, we meet his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend and Emily, his new girlfriend and partner for the rest of the story. This first part of the film works as a kind of coming-of-age mini-story. It’s not super entertaining and he sometimes breaks the fourth wall with no particular point, but we can already tell that these two are going to suffer a great deal.

In a slight change of events, Emily breaks up with Cherry, and due to this heartbreak, he decides to join the army where he eventually works as a medic in the Iraq war (he does end up returning with Emily before he leaves, which made his decision seem even more pointless). It’s appalling to see how the recruiter knew he was joining out of bitterness and sadness, and literally the next day, Cherry gets sworn in. It has to be noted that this is an adaptation of the autobiographical book by Nico Walker. Even though the movie remains true to events in large scope, the Russo’s did a decent job in making us empathize with the rather unlikeable main characters. This is done mainly through Cherry’s ordeal during the war, and it’s a blatant and very direct critique of the war and the military. We get to see the entirety of his training and I have to admit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this represented the way it was in this movie. He even mentions how he feels like he’s just playing soldier. Of course, that all changes when he gets to Iraq.

What happens next is not something we haven’t seen before in a Hollywood movie. We see the horrors of war, but in this case, we’re kind of dropped right in the middle of the chaos alongside our main character. He’s disoriented, confused, and clearly in shock. As the days go by, he realizes there’s no point in what they’re doing over there. And then, one of the most harrowing scenes occurs; his best friend is killed right in front of him. Now, up to this point, the movie is not exactly original. But there is something to say about the rawness of this depiction, and even though it can never come close, Holland's performance made it overwhelming to watch.


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The moment he comes back home is when we see the decline in not only his life but Emily’s. Cherry is suffering from PTSD and, just like many veterans, develops a drug addiction. Emily gets caught up in it, and together, they become “dope fiends,” as Cherry puts it. The Russo’s also shed light on the opioid addiction crisis and its dangers. Next to it are Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo being wonderful young actors. You can see how they are little by little, destroying their lives up to the point where Cherry has to rob many banks to satisfy their addiction. This last chapter is the hardest and most painful to watch, but probably the most meaningful one.

Despite the good performances and the best-selling book the Russo’s had to base this story on, the movie remained trite, and this sentiment even worsened when we got to Cherry’s 14-year redemption arch that was shown rapidly in a musical montage. I’m sorry, what? We saw almost every inch of this person’s adult life with so much detail, but then you rush the ending? By the time the movie was done, I felt like this was a totally different story than the one I started. This might be due to the storytelling format and visual choices that were made. But it leaves me wondering if this two-hour and 21-minute film would’ve worked better as a mini-series since I felt like I watched three different movies rolled up into one very long narration. The reality is, this man's entire story could've definitely been resumed into a 40-minute episode. That's not to say that the story is not worthwhile because one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that these stories matter and need to be told. That's what I appreciated the most about the Russo brothers’ new venture. Cherry might not be the most unique take, but it is an up to scratch demonstration of what Tom Holland and the Russo's are able to do outside of the MCU.

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