The narrative centres on the enigmatic and unstable young guy, Finn (Hart Denton), who develops feelings for the impressionable but resolute Eliza (Sarah May Sommers). They become closer as friends after realising they also experience familial trauma. Their friendship gradually develops into a romance, in which Finn's obsession takes control because of the underlying mental health difficulties he so frequently struggles with. He tries to shield Eliza from her troubled family, but in doing so, he pushes his obsession too far, which has disastrous effects for everyone.
American Cherry ingeniously reveals a tale about untreated mental health difficulties and codependency through voice-over recordings recorded by Finn that are frequently woven into real-time discussions. Cytrynowicz explores a number of themes, including abuse, trauma, and family troubles, via the character of Finn. Flashbacks, voice-overs, and deliberate speech are some of the creative storytelling techniques she employs, even if it doesn't always work. But despite being unnecessarily sensationalised, Cytrynowicz's intimate debut is believable because of her assurance in front of the camera.
American Cherry functions best when it avoids taking a position on the characters it seeks to study. Throughout the movie, almost everyone has a convoluted past with someone else. However the musical score that plays when Finn and Eliza are onscreen, or the disturbing one that plays when Eliza's alcoholic mother Louise (Leonor Varela) is onscreen, serves to direct viewers' perceptions of these individuals. It's not always clear whether to like or dislike the characters in this drama, as viewers will soon discover. Unhealthy behaviour is enabled a little too often, and there is even a codependency based on trauma-bonding, but these aspects do not characterise the characters. If the script had not asked its audience to do the same, it would have been better.
There's a good narrative here, maybe even a fantastic one. The script desperately tries to explore its wide range of issues, but it never goes far enough. That may be a valuable lesson in restraint that, strangely enough, Cytrynowicz's characters could take away. Due to its serious issues, which ought to be accompanied with trigger warnings, American Cherry is the kind of movie that would immediately inspire discussion about what one just saw. Even if merely to remind oneself that mental health is vital and leaving these difficulties untreated could result in disaster, the movie is worth viewing even though not everything works perfectly.
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