American Cherry Image

American Cherry

By Bobby LePire | March 13, 2023

Music video and commercial director Marcella Cytrynowicz makes her feature-length debut with American Cherry. The writer-director hones in on the lives of the young and lost, though the characters hope love can save them. She also explores mental illness, generational trauma, and the strength of romantic, familial, and platonic relationships.

Finn (Hart Denton) is a moody teenager prone to intimidating outbursts, which gets him expelled from school. One day, he just lies down in the middle of the road. This odd act catches the attention of Eliza (Sarah May Sommers). This meet-cute gives each someone who understands how they see the world. For whatever peace Finn has found now, he begins to get scared when the darkness rises in him again.

At home, Eliza must care for her drunk mother, Louise (Leonor Varela), who is still pining for ex Dale (John Honey). Her sister, Corinna (Audrey Holcomb), is desperate to patch up their relationship, though Eliza still holds a grudge. Through every fight, drunken night with her parent, and just general frustrations, Finn is there for Eliza. Will love be enough to satiate Finn’s deepest desires? Is a heinous act done out of pure love still one?

American Cherry takes several unexpected swerves; this is anything but cliched. Without spoiling anything, the intimate story unfolds more like real life and not in some scripted way. Some parts are messy or hard to understand right away. For example, Eliza storms out of a very tense dinner with her family and Finn. He finds her after a moment, and the two hop on the bus only to wind up where they started. Eliza asks to be left alone then. Why then and not earlier? Emotions are tricky to process and even trickier to pin down.

Through every fight, drunken night with her parent, and just general frustrations, Finn is there for Eliza.”

Finn records a lot of his daily interactions with Eliza. Every so often, the film cuts to what he’s recording, usually involving his commentary (via voice-over) or continuing the current conversation. These scenes never break the momentum nor cause confusion. Cytrynowicz and editor Adam Lemnah maintain the pace while never losing focus on the characters. It’s a tricky line, especially as the last 30 minutes begin and thriller elements enter the fray. But the filmmaker walks that line with distinction.

American Cherry explores its potent themes just as well as it defines its characters. Interestingly, the filmmaker posits that love, not just romantic, can be a boon and a curse. Louise and Dale are in love, but that is the problem. Louise refuses to get help and lashes out at Eliza. But Corinna’s desire to make it work with her sister gives the film an extra dose of heart, making the ending even more powerful. Oh, that ending. No spoilers, but the finale proves what love means to everyone involved. It’s genuinely moving and thrilling in equal measure.

Denton is incredible as the morally conflicted male lead. His chemistry with Sommers is palpable, and the two light up the screen. When Finn tells Eliza how he finds beauty in death, he expects her to think it is weird. Instead, she finds it “poetic.” The way the two actors handle this is pitch-perfect. Sommers is elegant, adding layers to someone who sees only one way out of her nowhere town.

Top-notch players surround the leads. Holcomb is magnificent as the protective sister who wishes to mend things. How she tells Eliza that she “loves her, even when she’s a pain in the a*s” is heartfelt. Likewise, Varela avoids the expected traits of an on-screen alcoholic while being fun to hate.

American Cherry is an engaging and introspective look at young romance, wayward souls, and what brings two people together. The cast is amazing from start to finish, with Denton and Sommers standing out. The denouement cements Cytrynowicz’s debut as spectacular and special. Seriously, there aren’t enough words to describe how perfect the last few minutes are.

For more information about American Cherry, visit the Buffalo 8 site.

American Cherry (2023)

Directed and Written: Marcella Cytrynowicz

Starring: Hart Denton, Sarah May Sommers, Audrey Holcomb, Leonor Varela, John Honey, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

American Cherry Image

"…there aren't enough words to describe how perfect the last few minutes are."

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