by Hope Madden
Ohio is trying to kill Tom Holland.
Last year we lured this sweety pie to Knockemstiff with the sole purpose of, well, knocking him stiff in Antonio Campos’s big screen adaptation of Donald Pollack’s novel The Devil All the Time.
And now Cleveland.
Filmmakers and brothers Joe and Anthony Russo—both fans of The Land, having filmed many of their Marvel films there—bring Nico Walker’s Cleveland-based semi-autobiographical novel to the screen. Cherry sees a young man, nameless through most of the film, make a bad decision and then pay for it dearly for the rest of his life.
That young man is played with as much humanity and tenderness as you’ve come to expect from Holland. You cannot root against this kid.
Walker himself, whose novel was adapted for the screen by Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg, apparently wrote what he knew. The Russos take his tale and, in their best moments, inject a cynical visual commentary to offset Holland’s earnest good nature.
The star draws support from some impressive ensemble work. Forrest Goodluck (The Revenant) and Jack Raynor (Midsommar) deliver an excellent mix of tragedy and comedy, while Ciara Bravo gives love interest Emily a believably bruised soul.
The combination, when it works, generates a knowing story about a screwup who paid too high a price for one mistake but never lost his humanity.
It doesn’t always work, though.
Cherry clocks in at a hefty 2:20 and it feels for all the world like the Russos and their writers simply didn’t know how or where to cut Walker’s story down. The movie lacks focus.
And while there are clever stylistic choices made—the names of the banks as written on walls and other nods toward a subversive side commentary—the structure is far, far too standard. This should feel like no other movie you’ve ever seen because Walker’s story is really unusual.
Instead, Cherry seems too much like a string of broken person meets terrible consequences before facing personal demons thrillers.