The Russo Brothers’ harrowing and hollow drug addiction drama, Cherry, utilizes the camera to re-create the mental effects of trauma and drug abuse. The movie is a visceral gut-punch, an aesthetic representation of a shattered mind, in which Tom Holland goes for broke as Cherry, in a role that asks him to navigate the highs and lows of a heroin addict in Cleveland, Ohio.
In flashbacks, we meet our troubled protagonist at the age of 18, going to college and skipping classes. He falls in love, joins the army, moves through basic training and the Iraq war, and comes home pretty messed up, rapidly descending into addiction and crime to finance his habit.
The plot is essentially divided into three parts: the college years, where he meets his girlfriend, Emily (Ciara Bravo), and everything is fast and fun and shot like Goodfellas; the Iraq years, where everything is hellish and hostile and shot like Full Metal Jacket; and the post-Iraq years, where everything is sad and slow and shot like Requiem for a Dream.
It’s a long-winded, throw-the-kitchen-sink epic that is more concerned with the next camera move than the next character move, but cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel does pull off some dazzling images, especially in the relationship between Cherry and the camera. It is his mirror, a reflection of where he is at any given moment.
Though the narrative could use some structural integrity (it crams way too much in the middle), The Russos create a courageously visceral, experimental piece, tapping into the mind of a junkie who is always one phone call away from getting clean.
Cherry premieres on AppleTV+ Fri., March 12. ❖