This darkest-of-dark films based on a true story makes you wonder why we are expected to invest two hours of our time in being miserable along with the film’s protagonist.
Tom Holland whom we know and love as Spiderman, plays what must rank as the unhappiest hero of American cinema. In most of the film Holland has to act drugged, zapped out and disoriented. I must say he has done a splendid job of it. Holland is consistently unhappy.
His misery is contagious. I wanted out in 15 minutes. But I can never abandon a film. It’s like throwing a baby into the sea knowing it can’t swim. This is exactly what Holland’s character Cherry conveys. A man who can’t swim , left to drown. When we meet Cherry initially he is robbing a bank. His heart is clearly not in it. He allows the female teller to tell the cops on him. There will be many more bank robberies in the 2-hour-plus playing time. This is what drug addicts do to fund their obsession.
Then the film goes into a long-winded flashback showing Cherry enlisting into the American army because his girlfriend Emily(Ciaro Bravo) refuses to marry him. She , poor thing, regrets her decision right away . But it’s too late. The rest of her time in this feelbad film is dedicated to staying in a drugged haze with her boyfriend who comes back from the army all messed up in his head.
Be warned. This film is likely to do the same to your head. It is stylishly hallucinogenic and we perpetually see the world as Cherry sees it: through a drug-induced haze. The narration is deliberately languorous with the story unfolding in chapters like a book. This must be in deference to the film’s literary antecedents. Cherry is based on the book by a soldier-turned-junkie Nico Walker. The film seems faithful to the book but shows little respect for any institution or individual.
War is shown as institutionalized murder. Drugs and robbing banks are supposedly the antidote to psychological disorder. It’s not only the film’s morality that needs to be severely questioned. It’s also its timing. At a time when we are devastated by crises, do we need cinema to celebrate sociopathic bleakness?
The only reason to watch Cherry is Tom Holland who surrenders to the part with single-minded ferocity. All else is lost in the trashy world of the protagonist. There is no way out. Towards the end there is an endless shot of Cherry sitting on the sidewalk with a bullet injury waiting for the cops to arrive. I felt the same anxiety all through the film. Waiting for some hope in the environment of unimitigated darkness. It never comes.
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