Tom Holland shows his dark side in Russo Brothers’ Cherry
With so much high-profile work under his belt, it’s easy to forget that Tom Holland has only been in movies since 2012. The 24-year-old made his on-camera debut alongside prestigious company in Oscar nominated drama The Impossible, and has barely stopped for breath since. Best known as Peter Parker/Spider-man in the all-conquering Marvel Universe, the 24-year-old shows us a more serious side in Apple TV+ movie Cherry.
Directed by The Russo Brothers (Avengers: Endgame) and based on the novel by Nico Walker, Holland plays Cherry, a listless young man who struggles to understand the world around him. Things begin to make sense when he falls for classmate Emily (Ciara Bravo), but trauma from her past leads her to break up the relationship, under the guise of moving to college in Canada.
Devastated, he joins the army as a medic, and returns from the frontline with PTSD from his experiences. Cherry turns to drugs to fight his demons, and then crime to pay for the drugs. Spiralling out of control, his traumatic past looks set to shatter his future with Emily.
It’s always striking when an actor known for more PG roles does something grittier. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Matthew McConaughey, with audiences compelled by the sight of the laid-back Southern star getting up to no good.
With Holland, the difference is even more stark, given we’re used to him playing a bright, charming young man with the world ahead of him. Seeing Peter Parker drop F-Bombs and rob banks takes some getting used to, but with this performance he proves a point.
Holland clearly has far more in him than the roles we’re used to seeing him play. After the brutal military segments, he also does a wonderful job of portraying a complex mental health condition. In a film that can stretch credulity, there’s never a doubt about the actor’s ability.
Unfortunately, the film as a whole doesn’t rise to the same standard. It’s curious why The Russo Brothers, who made the most successful film of all time, do not have the same gravitas to their names as James Cameron or fellow Avengers director Joss Whedon.
When you look at this, and their equally forgettable Netflix action film Extraction, you begin to understand why. This story needed a gentle hand, but every scene is over-stylised and there are moments that resemble a music video. We get freeze, frames, slow motion, small vignettes portraying Emily’s past, and drill sergeants screaming homophobic slurs that are then spelled out on screen. It’s messy and emotionally misjudged.
Narration isn’t always a bad sign, but Holland talking us through everything that’s happening suggests the filmmakers couldn’t find another way to tell their story. After several years fighting Thanos, a less-is-more approach seems to elude them. There are moments of real pathos, where the direction finds a balance with Holland’s performance, but it’s small reward for a film that runs nearly two and a half hours.
As Cherry grinds to a finish, the most intriguing conclusions are off the screen. On the positive side, Tom Holland is a versatile actor with the potential to go in interesting directions once he hangs up his webslinger. On the negative, Cherry is a prime example of what happens when filmmakers fail to reign in their creative impulses.
Cherry is available on Apple TV+ from 12th March.