Coming in at a trim hour and 15 minutes, Cherry rests squarely on the shoulders of Alex Trewhitt; an actress who displays incredible poise and promise, offering up a performance here which redefines the line in terms of naturalism. Writer/director Sophie Galibert first captures her freewheeling into frame on roller skates, backlit by a Los Angeles morning complete with palm trees, an entrance complimented further by a cover of the Nina Simone classic “I Ain’t Got No, I Got Life”, which will influence audiences from the outset.
By incorporating the LA skyline into her cinematic canvas to tell this contemporary tale, Galibert fully immerses us into a world of sun-soaked sidewalks and eclectic cultures that embrace the diversity of this Hollywood town. A place built on the dreams of pioneers, who peddled moving images and manufactured silver screen icons, offering a temporary escape to anyone who wanted to watch.
This is the unbridled optimism which unpins Galibert’s take on teenage pregnancy, as audiences follow Cherry on her journey into uncharted territory, one which includes awkward conversations with female doctors, a fractious confrontation with boyfriend Nick (Dan Schultz), and a mothering Sunday with family that’s best glossed over.
However, what remains engaging and even riveting throughout the film is that central performance, which somehow ties the room together. Arguments between Cherry and her boss Roger (Joe Sacham) might feel wooden, but somehow that never seems to matter. Their moments together feed back into the organic indie feel of this flick, giving everything an improvised edge. There are even moments in Cherry reminiscent of Sean Baker’s Florida Project, as perfect pieces of cinema seem to emerge from the ether.
As the clock starts ticking on a life-changing decision, Cherry compassionately approaches the topic of abortion with confidence, making sure to keep the power of choice with her throughout, irrespective of those seeking to influence any decision. With her mother Carla (Angela Nicholas), sister Anna (Hannah Alline), and grandmother (Melinda DeKay) each burdened with their own problems, Cherry is considerate in deciding not to share her big news; choosing instead to ask questions around parenthood that are potentially more important when it comes to making any decisions.
This theme comes up time and again, feeding back into a narrative which consistently remains impartial, as seasoned advice and subjective opinion give Cherry the necessary tools to decide for herself. Whether that comes from a father (Charlie S. Jensen) who talks honestly about raising his daughters (yet says more through a single photo in his wallet than any number of words can convey), or a grandmother with onset dementia who casually passes on pearls of wisdom, before single-handedly stealing every scene thereafter.
Beyond tapping up family members for potential insight, Cherry also encounters other obstacles designed to confuse things further, one of which is a potential job opportunity to travel around America for six months rollerskating with friends. Mia (Alice Bang) is the bearer of these glad tidings, which conflicts further with any choices which must be made concerning her pregnancy. In turn, that means Mia takes Cherry’s immediate brush off to be an indication of her indifference to their dance troupe, rather than a reflection of something more serious.
However, irrespective of the roadblocks which get thrown in her way, Trewhitt ensures that Cherry remains an effervescent presence on screen, bringing real depth to the role. Whether reconnecting with her childhood through old family photographs, or coming to terms with her situation following an empowering epiphany – this is a solid piece of acting.
It also offers a compassionate portrayal of an ongoing dilemma, one that faces countless women on a daily basis, where the correct choice might not always be the most obvious as conflicting opinions and personal agendas might unduly influence those in a vulnerable position. Thankfully, Galibert has produced a film which consciously embraces anything positive on the subject, transforming Cherry into a teen pregnancy drama with real heart.
Not only an an indie drama with social commentary overtones, Cherry comes bearing more contemporary relevance than half the heavy-handed tentpole movies out there, something it achieves using less budget than most blockbusters set aside for catering.
In one of the most optimistic indie films so far this year, Alex Trewhitt delivers a staggering central performance, turning this teen drama into something special.