Michelle's parents are divorced and disinterested in their own daughter, who they treat like a tennis ball. Michelle's mother sends her to live with her dad, but he prefers to spend time with his teenage lover. Crilly's selfishness frustrates his "princess", and in turn she initiates the ultimate rebellion.
Luke lives with his alcoholic, irresponsible father Smiley and "businessman" brother Chris, who forces Smiley and Luke to sell drugs. Among his friends, Luke is perceived as an attractive, flamboyant, carefree bloke; but behind this facade Luke is ashamed of his father, frustrated by his brother, and utterly unhappy with his entire family setting. His best friend Malachy is the only ray of light in his life. Luke gets the girls easily, but he disposes of them quickly, because the entire notion of a stable relationship is alien to him.
Malachy has a stable family, and he excels at school. His middle class parents have high hopes for his future, but they fail to notice that there's more to their son than just good marks. They disapprove his friendship with Luke, but Malachy sticks to his pal and copes well with Luke's nasty behaviour. Malachy is clever and self-confident, but he doesn't want his friends to see him just as mummy's nerdy little boy; so he drinks, smokes weed, snorts cocaine, swears. However, it is not Luke but Michelle who ultimately pushes him over the edge.
Both boys are attracted to Michelle; however, it is Malachy who soon becomes completely infatuated by her. As the competition gets increasingly dangerous, both Luke and Michelle are surprised by the fact that "the good boy" Malachy accepts the challenges and doesn't give up. Luke can afford to do whatever he wants because he's got nothing to lose; while Malachy jeopardises his good relationship with his parents, his job, and his academic future.
Although Michelle seems to have more in common with Luke, she finds herself attracted to Malachy, disarmed by his sincerity. But, at the same time, she is afraid to love and let love. Halfway through the film the dynamics of the trio changes. Luke freaks out at the possibility of losing his best friend to this girl; and what was Malachy and Luke competing for Michelle, turns into Michelle and Luke competing for Malachy. Michelle grows increasingly annoyed by Luke's crazy antics, while Luke can't understand Malachy's infatuation with this girl and is ultimately jealous and baffled by the idea that his best friend would choose Michelle over him.
The entire action in Cherrybomb happens over the span of a weekend, making the movie very intense and fast-paced; and the ultimate rebellion results in tragedy which changes the survivors' lives forever.
Acting wise, the greatest expectations were laid on Rupert Grint's shoulders, because we were all curious to see whether he could make us forget about Ron Weasley; whether he can suppress his natural comedic instincts and be a successful drama lead; whether he can pull off a thick Norn Iron accent; and whether he has an acting future after Harry Potter. And the answer to all these questions is YES! There was no trace of Ron Weasley (or Grint's other movie characters) there: he gave a very subtle and realistic performance. It is hard to believe that this is the same actor who always gets the funny lines and handles a majority of slapstick in Harry Potter. Grint brings a touching sincerity and warmth to the role of Malachy, a boy who falls in love with a girl for the first time, and is willing to risk everything just to be with her.
Robert Sheehan, on the other hand, gives a completely different performance. Luke is flamboyant and extreme, and Sheehan's performance is suitably over-the-top in the most positive way: he portrays this tense, edgy, emotionally broken teenager heartbreakingly and persuasively. Sheehan is definitely a force to reckon with, and he and Grint play each other off superbly.
Kimberley Nixon gives a convincing portrayal of a neglected, insecure girl. She and Rupert Grint have a wonderful on-screen chemistry. James Nesbitt is fantastic as Michelle's father: he generated a lot of laughter, and initially appeared as a selfish but relatively benign man who suffers from midlife crisis. However, as the movie progresses, he is exposed as an aggressive, violent man.
The directors' style is very creative and efficient. Instead of flashy special effects, they opt for an imaginative use of real-life sets, unusual camera angles, lots of close-up shots, expressive colours and clever editing. The film does contain some violent and drug related scenes, nudity and foul language -- however even the rawest of scenes are done very stylishly.
Cherrybomb deals with the challenges of growing up, accepting responsibilities and falling in love for the first time. This dark, artsy movie is definitely not kiddie-friendly; but, the combination of great performances, beautiful visuals, and uncompromising realism makes it highly recommendable. Anyone interested in an engaging, thrilling and gripping emotional roller-coaster should enjoy Cherrybomb.