Cherry review – taking the ‘post’ out of post-traumatic stress disorder | Film

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The Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, have become renowned for directing the epics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and now they take on the big, serious, operatically painful story of Cherry, about a US army medic played by Tom Holland who leaves the service in 2007 with PTSD after witnessing horrors in Iraq. He acquires an opioid addiction that blossoms into a full-scale smack habit, miserably shared with his young wife Emily (Ciara Bravo), and finally finds a new trade in robbing banks, like a zombie wired on desperation. The Russos produce and direct, and screenwriters Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg have adapted the bestselling autobiographical novel by the decorated war veteran and ex-convict Nico Walker about his own desolate experiences in Civvy Street, robbing banks to feed his habit.

Holland is a fierce, compact presence, his jaw muscles perennially working: he is a sweetly innocent young guy who falls for fellow college student Emily and one afternoon makes a fatally premature decision to tell her he loves her. Instead of hearing “I love you” back, Emily is scared by the gesture, pulls away from him and in angry despair at what turns out to be a temporary break-up Cherry irreversibly signs on the dotted line to join the army. Everything follows from that.

The movie is divided into self-consciously weighty and epic chapters, but really it splits into two parts, war and postwar: Cherry’s military career in Iraq, in which he is both brutalised and brutalising, and then the grim nightmare of his civilian life which makes it clear that the “post” in post-traumatic stress disorder is wrong. His is a life of continuing trauma, continuing stress and continuing disorder.

This is a vehement, heartfelt film that culminates in a colossally grandiose sequence with a full-scale overhead camera shot (the sort mocked in Team America: World Police) and Puccini blaring on the soundtrack. Holland certainly brings his A-game. At various times, he reminded me of Jake Gyllenhaal as the stoic grunt in Sam Mendes’s Jarhead and the smack addict Heath Ledger in Neil Armfield’s underrated heroin drama Candy. But Emily’s story is skated over and the film is rounded off a little too easily into a straightforward redemption story (its mood tacitly absorbing the happy ending of the publishing and movie deals) with no permanent price paid.

There is the bleakest kind of chaotic humour in the bank robberies themselves – and it’s a reminder that apart from the Avengers movies, the Russo brothers also directed episodes of the TV comedy Arrested Development. Jack Reynor has a great supporting role as the loathsome drug dealer nicknamed Pills’n’Coke, familiarly known as “Pills”, who becomes Cherry’s longterm supplier and even his sort-of friend, although friendships are impossible in the soulless world of drug addiction. Pills finds himself being roped into being a getaway driver and then bank robber himself alongside Cherry, with terrible consequences which show us just how much Pills is really esteemed by his new non-friends.

What is very interesting about the robberies here is that they show that in the moment-by-moment confrontation with the bank teller, there is a kind of negotiation, or bargaining. The teller might decide to offer a single wad of cash, but the gun-brandishing robber might angrily demand another wad before making a run for it – and all the time the clock is running down; the robber fears the police arriving and the teller fears being shot. It is a game of chicken in which the robber always loses in the end. Cherry is a fervent movie, corn-fed with drama and action, but maybe a little less than the sum of its parts.

Cherry is released on 12 March on Apple TV+.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Cherry review – taking the ‘post’ out of post-traumatic stress disorder | Film

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