DISCLAIMER: This review contains spoilers.
TW: extensive graphic drug abuse, disturbing and violent images, mentions of suicide, death, and depictions of PTSD.
After hitting it big in the MCU, the Russo brothers (Anthony and Joe) and Tom Holland team up for a very different collaboration. Cherry is a semi-autobiographical take on Nico Walker’s life. The film is divided into seven separate chapters and follows a fictional interpretation of Walker called Cherry.
The film tells the story of a young man before, during, and after he experiences life as an army medic. He meets the love of his life Emily (Ciara Bravo) in a college English class. The couple goes through a rough patch, leading to Cherry dropping out of school and enlisting in the Army. However, the two reconcile and marry before he leaves for basic training.
After serving in Iraq for two years, Cherry returns home with symptoms of PTSD — he has trouble sleeping, and when he does, he dreams about the horrors he saw. He has negative outlooks on his life, expressing suicidal thoughts to a therapist. This therapist, Dr. Whomever (Thomas Lennon), prescribes Cherry with OxyContin to help him and hopefully decrease his PTSD. Unfortunately, Cherry abuses the medication. Emily feels helpless, not knowing how she can help her husband. In a disheartening turn of events, Emily begins using the drug as well, and the two become addicts. Eventually, this leads them towards a full-blown heroin addiction.
Although I have a profound fear of needles, I knew what I was putting myself through. However, I was debating on if I could finish the movie or not. There were multiple needles seen and used throughout the last hour of the film — this is when I started taking breaks from watching. It was a lot to handle. It broke my heart to witness these two go down such a dark and dangerous path.
The pair became so dependent on the drug that they got themselves and their drug dealer, Pills and Coke (Jack Reynor), into a life-threatening situation. To get the money for the drugs they seized, Cherry robs a bank. After realizing how easy it is to commit theft, Cherry starts robbing banks regularly to support his and Emily’s extreme heroin addiction. From here on out, the story gets much worse. There is a near-fatal overdose for Emily, and, in the end, Cherry finds himself in jail.
Overall, I don’t see myself ever sitting down to watch this again. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, but I didn’t hate it. The theme and tone of the story were extremely dark. I thought the actors did a phenomenal job with their performances, stepping out of their comfort zones and pushing themselves to new levels.
The choice to separate the story into seven sections was interesting, but it didn’t live up to its expectations. There were moments where I was asking myself, “Is this a different movie?” Although, how each story had a clear-cut beginning, middle, and end. I’m a sucker for good storytelling, and I felt each element was tackled in each chapter.
There were a few scenes in the film that I think were not needed at all. There is a pretty explicit scene that involves a physical examination of Cherry; I don't understand how anyone on that set agreed for that to be in the final cut. It was bizarre and totally unnecessary. Also, there is another instance where Cherry is doing the robot… what? The scene is serious, showing the audience how the Army expresses their chants. When I saw this moment, I started laughing out of despair. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe that something this foolish was included.
When it comes to diversity, I think Cherry did a pretty good job. Several characters make up underrepresented groups in the film, including Native American actor Forrest Goodluck as Cherry’s best friend James, and Shelly, played by actress Jamie Brewer, who has Down syndrome.
Cherry is now streaming exclusively on Apple TV+. The film is rated R for graphic drug abuse, disturbing and violent images, pervasive language, and sexual content.