We'd like to note that this review is completely spoiler ridden. If you don't want to know what happens in the movie - don't read it. We apologise for not noting this sooner, but our brains were just about melted by the late hour in which we posted it last evening.
The film opens and closes with Malachy. Malachy's bruised and bandaged eyes appear on the screen and we close with him staring. What happens in between these frames is a film about the complexities that come along with growing up, trying to be cool, getting the girl, and having friendships tested.
Directing team Glenn Leyburn & Lisa Barros D'Sa have put together a great example of a dark teen film taken seriously. The film takes place in 3 crazy, wild, and extraordinary days. We open with Malachy during an interrogation, all bruised and bothered. Some flashes of Luke throughout, its obviously after the tragedy that takes place at the end of the film, but upon first glance you're wondering where Michelle is and we hear a voice over of something like "She made you get the key?" then we kick into the film. No credits, just the title "CHERRYBOMB" floating in a pool and we're introduced to Malachy working at the Titanic Leisureplex watching a couple of girls doing some acrobatics on trampolines. You could say, this speaks volumes to what the rest of the film is like for him. The first opening words of the film are spoken by him and they are, 'dirty bastard.' Luke stumbles in, and they chat about how Malachy just walked by his boss' office only to hear (and see) him having sex with Donna, a 16-year old co-worker. If the first 3 minutes of the film are any indication, CHERRYBOMB isn't your typical "a couple of guy friends fighting for a girl" story.
There's a wonderful youthful style to the film, evidence of directors trying to get their aesthetics together and really capturing a certain kind of generation and its stereotypes. Lots of text messages, excellent music, cool style/hair, and loads of cursing. It's really invigorating and reinforces the characters and their personalities. You find that around the characters are mundane palates, tones and colors that stay in the same scheme and allow for each of the three leads to truly pop off the screen. Each has their own style, look, and mood. Really great looks, I have to reinforce that. I think the most telling sign of any great character is when you look at the actor afterwards, and can't tell it was them. Honestly, Rupert does not look the same. Kimberley is not Kimberley, and Robert certainly does not look like himself. They each are Malachy, Michelle, and Luke, respectively. Visually, this film really delivers.
The story itself, as you can tell from before, is extremely layered. Each action and scene of the film truly adds fuel to the fire of the film's finale. The start with Luke's random bar fight, then Malachy defacing Michelle's neighborhood, the free drugs, wild parking lot joy ride, who can get Michelle in bed first...well, I think you're getting the point. It's a film that lets these events (ridiculous when out of context) become their own signals of warning for each character and really touches on their insecurities and where they need to grow as people.
The acting, well, come on! Of course it was great, everybody held their own and you really got this sense that every person was working very hard to make this film great. From the accents, to the drug use, love scenes, and just madness that they all had to portray, it felt that the strongest actors possible were cast. Rupert is really unbelievable.
I have to be honest now, I only just saw the Harry Potter films this past summer and became a fan of Rupert's from them. I made sure to check out "Driving Lessons" and I was immediately impressed. "CHERRYBOMB" has solidified my expectations that he really is dedicated to the craft and what acting is about. It's really great to watch Malachy and think, "well that's Rupert under there." Rupert seems so simple, but you can imagine the thought processes he has to achieve some really cool moments of pause and reaction. He makes Malachy likeable, for how many times you feel that he just needs to get away from these crazy attention-needing friends of his. Malachy just sticks around, and especially at the films end during the interrogation and we end on a still shot of him, you wonder did he finally figure out he can't be pressured constantly.
Robert Sheehan plays Luke very well, as a young teen whom after years of obvious drug-abuse, cannot keep his head on straight for the life of him. He's dependent on Malachy for a lot of reasons, and I think the core is hope that maybe he does deserve to have someone on his team. He's around 2 toxic men who do not value his existence in one bit for very difficult reasons. His brother is a drug boss who uses him to deal and bring money back and his father is a tremendous addict who cannot support his son at all. Luke is reckless, and by the point that Michelle walks in, you wonder if she may have saved him. I'll explain later.
Michelle, played wonderfully by Kimberley Nixon, is our resident "pre-vixen" of the film. She’s too young to be that full on vixon, so you watch her in the film constantly flirting and testing the boys in ways that can only bring more attention to herself. She's almost irritating, and don't want to like her at all, and I'm sure many of you won't...and that's the beauty of Kimberley's performance. I really appreciate when actress' take roles that you shouldn’t really like. And frankly, I have respect for women who are fearless to do nudity (and she does my friends, and I guess you could say Rupert as well) so kudos to Kimberley!
I mentioned that Michelle might have saved Luke because Luke kills her father, and by doing so left room for his brother to be arrested and given the opportunity to see truly what a friend Malachy is to him when Malachy tells him to go on before anything else happens. Luke is close to edge (being that he just killed a man!), and he's ready to jump off, but Malachy (even though, I was feeling like he would be best without Luke or Michelle) is right there with him. They wouldn't be in this position weren't it for Michelle. And well, you know what I think about her.
So overall, I really liked it. It was a great form of entertainment that really had you connected through performances, story, and editing. Based on the weekend we've had here at Berlinale, it was worth EVERYTHING. The film delivered, Rupert is tremendous in it (along with everyone else of course), and the interviews are just hours away!!