How Apple is selling a story of trauma, addiction and how they intersect.
No matter what else you might say about Joe and Anthony Russo, they certainly seem to inspire loyalty among the actors the directing brothers work with. Nearly every post-Avengers project they’ve been involved with has included at least one of the actors from the MCU, and this week’s Cherry is no exception.
Based on the novel by Nico Walker, Tom Holland stars in the film as the title character, a young man who’s a romantic at heart in the early 2000s. He meets and immediately falls in love with Emily (Ciara Bravo), but when complications in the romance emerge he enlists in the military and is shipped to Afghanistan. When Cherry returns, the relationship with Emily restarts, but his trauma from his time overseas leads them both into dangerous drug addiction, which is financed by Cherry beginning to rob banks both for the money and the rush.
Early reviews were largely positive, praising Holland’s mature and charismatic performance, but the movie sports a less enthusiastic 43% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie received a limited theatrical release a few weeks ago but hits Apple TV+ this Friday.
In December a teaser poster showing Cherry staring straight ahead at the camera, his haircut and look conveying a sense of someone who’s seen some stuff and has little left to lose was released. That poster was notably misprinted online when it debuted on Variety, with the title messed up to the extent lots of people had a laugh at its expense. It was republished quickly.
A short while later a series of posters that retained the dark red background but this time showed each character in profile with a noun that describes them came out.
The theatrical poster from January has the same aesthetic but while Cherry is the only one really seen, arms presumably belonging to Emily are shown reaching from off-camera to hold his face in her hands.
Cherry is robbing a bank as the first trailer (4m views on YouTube(, released in mid-January, starts. Via voiceover he’s wondering what the point of life is before we flashback to his earlier life, including meeting Emily and then, much to her dismay, joining the Army. When he returns he’s suffering from PTSD Emily can’t help with, so he turns to robbing banks to try and silence the voices in his head or at least do something that feels like anything. It’s a powerful trailer, made more so by the glimpses we get of Cherry narrating his actions and life to the camera.
Online and Social
Nothing special on the web page for the movie from Apple TV+, which didn’t set up individual social pages but did support the film on its brand profiles.
Advertising and Publicity
The Russos brought the still-in-production movie to Cannes 2019, hoping to lure buyers with the promise of the project’s potential. They discussed it further, including that Holland was starring in the film, during their panel at San Diego Comic-Con in July of that year.
With Covid-19 shutting down most all theaters for an indeterminate period of time in early 2020, the Russos admitted they weren’t sure what the distribution future for the film was going to be. That changed in September when Apple acquired the movie following a brief period of speculation Netflix might pick it up.
In early January the Russos offered the first real look at the movie via a clip showing Cherry enlisting in the military.
A featurette came out at the beginning of March that had Holland and Bravo talking about the story and their characters.
Shorter promos like this were shared online and may have been used as ads or commercials.
Media and Press
An interview with the Russos offered more details about the story and more as well as showing off some of the first official stills from the film. Another later interview with the brothers had them talking about Holland’s performance, the origins of the story and more.
Shortly before the movie came out there was a feature profile of not only Joe and Anthony Russo but also their sister Angela, who wrote the film.
There were additional interviews with the Russos about the personal nature of the story and how the production of the film was such a family endeavor. They also talked about what sort of generational elements inspired the story.
An appearance by Holland on “The Tonight Show,” as many of his interviews did, talked briefly about this movie but also went heavily into talking about Spider-Man.
Having seen the movie (thanks to a Hollywood Reporter-hosted virtual screening) I can safely report the campaign as outlined above matches the finished product pretty well. There are a few story elements, especially the extent and cause of Cherry and Emily’s descent into addiction that aren’t fully communicated here, but the marketing’s focus on Holland’s performance is justified.
Having said that, it’s Bravo’s performance that really centers the story and shines through. So much of that performance involves her speaking directly to the camera, a surrogate for Holland’s Cherry, and her calm but emotional demeanor comes through strongly. It’s a shame she wasn’t more fully involved in the publicity and press components of the marketing.