Tom Holland is a young Everyman trapped in the unravelling of the American Dream.



Stuff happens: Tom Holland


The cherry popped by Tom Holland’s unnamed protagonist is during his military service in Iraq. He sees things of unimaginable horror, a brutal rites-of-passage that sends the next years of his life into freefall. Whilst our protagonist acts as a cipher for the breakdown of the American dream, he is actually an incarnation of Nico Walker, on whose debut novel the film is based. Unfortunately, it all feels like a novel from the start, and our protagonist never sheds the sense of being a symbol for something rotten in the state of the States. And so cliché is piled onto cliché, as he – let’s call him Tom Holland – experiences first love in college, joins the army as a medic, goes to war, and so on. There is a whiff of Kurt Vonnegut Jr and John Irving about it as Cherry unfolds in a series of surreal tableaux in which other, better films are evoked, classics like Love Story, Full Metal Jacket, The Hurt Locker and, without wishing to give too much away, Trainspotting.


To accentuate its generic underpinnings – and the analogy of the Everyman at war with the System – Cherry distances the viewer further by stamping labels on everything. Thus, the financial institution that Tom Holland attempts to reason with at the start of the film (apparently his in-person cash deposit failed to clear in time) is just called The Bank. Likewise, the ID badge on Holland’s recruiting officer states ‘Sgt Whomever’, the doctor is ‘Dr Whomever' and Holland’s own army uniform ID just says ‘Soldier’. So, when Holland meets the girl of his dreams at college, she might as well have ‘The Girl’ tattooed on her forehead.


Our protagonist – aka Soldier – is, indeed, played by Tom Holland, the London-born actor who has played Spider-Man in six movies, notably in Anthony and Joe Russo's Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing film in history. It is the Russo brothers who direct Cherry and who draw on the entire spectrum of the cinematic paintbox to flesh-out their meta melange. It is meta because Cherry never lets the viewer forget that they are watching a movie. Even as Holland is in the process of robbing a bank – establishments variously dubbed CapitalistOne and even just Shitty Bank – he talks directly to camera. The colour scheme changes from one chapter to the next, as does the screen ratio and the filmmaking style, utilising split screen, overhead shots, long single takes, tracking shots, etc. It’s hard, then, for Tom Holland to fully register as a credible human being, although he does display an extraordinary emotional range. Less lucky is the astonishingly pretty Ciara Bravo as The Girl – aka Emily – who never looks less than bewitching, even when throwing up, which she does quite often. However, the cinematography, make-up and especially the soundtrack are all superlative.


Ultimately, then, Cherry is a magnificent display of cinematic bravado, an epic, self-indulgent juggernaut that puts the viewer through the wringer over a span of 142 minutes. One may marvel at many of its set-pieces, but the film never really engages on a human level, its emblematic characters caught in the chicken wire of the social order.




Cast: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Rispoli, Jeff Wahlberg, Forrest Goodluck, Michael Gandolfini, Pooch Hall, Damon Wayans Jr, Thomas Lennon, Kelli Berglund, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Fionn O'Shea, Adam Long, Daniel R. Hill, Ann Russo, Joe Russo, Vince Russo.


Dir Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, Pro Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Mike Larocca, Jonathan Gray, Matthew Rhodes, Jake Aust and Chris Castaldi, Screenplay Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg, from the novel of the same name by Nico Walker, Ph Newton Thomas Sigel, Pro Des Philip Ivey, Ed Jeff Groth, Music Henry Jackman, Costumes Sara Sensoy, Dialect coach Rick Lipton.


AGBO/Hideaway Entertainment-Apple TV+.

142 mins. USA. 2021. Rel: 12 March 2021. Available on AppleTV+. Cert. 18.