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Cherry


Jeff Wahlberg, Tom Holland and Fionn O'Shea star in a scene from the movie "Cherry" streaming on Apple TV+. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Apple TV)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- There's nothing cheery about "Cherry" (Apple TV+).

This harsh screen version of Nico Walker's semi-autobiographical 2018 novel -- set primarily in the early 2000s -- deals with such regrettably relevant topics as combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder and opioid addiction. But it does so in a morally unsteady manner and with a surfeit of seamy elements.

Tom Holland narrates the story in the guise of the otherwise unnamed character from whose moniker the film takes its title. A part-time college student from a hardscrabble background, things begin to look up for him when he falls for -- and wins the heart of -- classmate Emily (Ciara Bravo).

Their relationship, however, proves emotionally turbulent and, after they split up, Cherry hastily enlists as an Army medic. Although they reunite and marry just before he departs for service in the Iraq War, he returns home traumatized and together the pair fall into dependency, scrambling desperately to get high on anything from painkillers to cocaine and heroin.

To finance this expensive lifestyle, he eventually takes to robbing banks.

Directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo's chronicle of Cherry's declining fortunes makes for an overlong and only fitfully interesting drama. And the script from which they work -- penned by their sister, Angela Russo-Otstot, and Jessica Goldberg -- is too morbidly fascinated by the details of its protagonist's downward spiral to serve as the basis for an effective cautionary tale.

The values that guide Cherry are equally unsatisfactory. He sympathizes with the tellers he holds up at gunpoint, for instance, but indulges in the convenient illusion that the money he's stealing comes from some big oppressive corporation, rather than from depositors.

Along with the fact that Cherry and Emily's romance turns sexual while they still barely know each other, moreover, Cherry justifies satisfying his urges during his sojourn overseas on the grounds that, while doing so, he only fantasized about his wife. Without wishing to typecast Holland, it must be admitted that the sight of Peter Parker pleasuring himself in a military port-a-potty is as dispiriting as it is gratuitous.

Cherry and Emily certainly display mutual fidelity. Yet, for most of the excessive running time, the bond between them has more negative consequences than positive ones. That's typical of the muddied ethical waters through which viewers are forced to navigate on their way to a straightforwardly redemptive wrap-up.

The film contains combat violence with brief but extreme gore, gruesome images, a narcotics theme, a graphic depiction of masturbation, premarital relationships with scenes of sensuality, several uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths and relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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CAPSULE REVIEW

"Cherry" (Apple TV )

Harsh screen version of Nico Walker's semi-autobiographical 2018 novel, set primarily in the early 2000s, follows the declining fortunes of a part-time college student (Tom Holland) from a hardscrabble background who, on the rebound from an emotionally turbulent romance (with Ciara Bravo), enlists as an Army medic. The couple reunite and marry just before he departs for service in Iraq, but he returns home traumatized and together the pair fall into drug addiction, a habit he eventually finances by robbing banks. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo direct an overlong, fitfully interesting drama from a script by their sister, Angela Russo-Otstot, and Jessica Goldberg that's too morbidly fascinated by the details of its protagonist's downward spiral to serve as the basis for an effective cautionary tale. Combat violence with brief but extreme gore, gruesome images, a narcotics theme, a graphic depiction of masturbation, premarital relationships with scenes of sensuality, several uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths, relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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CLASSIFICATION

"Cherry" (Apple TV ) -- Catholic News Service classification, L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Motion Picture Association rating, R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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