A Psychological Thriller Full of Mixed Signals

Longtime music video director turned feature-length filmmaker, Marcella Cytrynowicz, debuts her psychological thriller/romance American Cherry on March 17. Also written by the director, the script tackles mental health, anger issues, addiction, and family drama among two troubled young adults. Hart Denton (Riverdale) and Sarah May Sommers (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) star as Finn and Eliza in this methodically-paced deep dive on the consequences of untreated needs. It often bites off more than it can chew, but American Cherry has enough there to be a thought-provoking and worthy debut.


The story follows the mysterious and troubled young man, Finn (Hart Denton), who sets his sights on the impressionable yet strong-willed Eliza (Sarah May Sommers). After discovering they both suffer from familial traumas, they grow closer together as friends. Their friendship quickly turns into romance, in which obsession gets the best of Finn due to underlying mental health issues that he so often has to battle. But as he tries to protect Eliza from her dysfunctional family, he pushes his obsession too far, resulting in dire consequences for everyone.

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Hart Denton and Sarah May Sommers in American Cherry

Told through voice-over recordings made by Finn that are often intertwined with real-time conversations, American Cherry creatively unravels a story about untreated mental health issues and codependency. Through Finn, Cytrynowicz showcases various themes related to trauma, abuse, and family issues. Her artistic storytelling comes in the form of flashbacks, voice-overs, and methodical dialogue that certainly gets the point across even if it doesn’t always work. But thanks to her confidence behind the camera, Cytrynowicz’s intimate debut is convincing, even if overly sensationalized.

American Cherry works best when it doesn’t define a stance on the characters it aims to examine. Nearly every person in the film has a complicated history with someone else. Yet, a romantic score when Finn and Eliza are onscreen, or a troubling one when Eliza’s alcoholic mother Louise appears (Leonor Varela) tends to tell viewers how to think about these characters. However, and as viewers will come to learn, liking or disliking the people in this story isn’t black and white. Sure, there’s a bit too much enabling of bad behavior or even a codependency built out of trauma-bonding, but these factors don’t define the characters. The script would have been better if it didn’t ask its audience to either.

american cherry movie review
Hart Denton in American Cherry

Toxic relationships and concerning actions aside, Cytrynowicz played her cards right when it came to putting together a coherent, albeit intricate story about moral strife. Her examination of human behavior when certain acts are done out of love provide a watching experience that is tough at most times, but engaging nonetheless. But the one thing standing in the way of her script is the mere fact that it takes on too much in too little time. As a result, the actors don’t get the time they need to give their all emotionally, which often leads to stiff performances. It isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a film of this kind, but the heavy topics hinted at deserve full exhibition due to their importance and prevalence in society.

There’s a good — maybe even great — story in here somewhere. However, the script never dives deep enough into its plethora of themes that it so desperately wants to explore. Perhaps that’s a good lesson about restraint; it’s one that, oddly enough, Cytrynowicz’s characters could learn. American Cherry is the kind of film that would immediately spark conversation about what one just saw due to its serious themes that should come with trigger warnings. And even though everything doesn’t work entirely, it’s a film worth watching, even if to just remind oneself that mental health is important, and leaving these issues untreated could lead to tragedy.

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American Cherry released on Amazon, Vudu, and Cable VOD on March 17. The film is 90 minutes long and not rated.

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