Admittedly I didn’t absolutely hate Cherry Tree Lane and in some moments got very engrossed in what was going on. However, any enjoyment I got from it was in the pure sense of just seeing what happens next. And that would be absolutely fine if the film ended in any sort of satisfying way. But it ends suddenly without really delivering a message or displaying any sort of reason why it was all worth watching.
Williams displays some moments of directorial brilliance, from his use of close-up shots of the characters' mouths as they deliver crucial dialogue to exciting moments of “will the victims escape?” However, even in those moments they don’t seem to serve a true purpose.
I would have preferred it if the film had been a lot more brutal and violent, as at least then it would have been making some sort of effective statement on youth violence. But instead it hovers in this sort of weird middle ground where it’s more violent than a glossy Hollywood film (where money is too often more important than quality) but less gutsy than it really needs to be in its display of violence. For example, the one act of violent atrocity even takes place completely off-screen, in another room than the main living room setting of the film.
Cherry Tree Lane had so much potential to be an affecting, powerful thriller that stays with you even after the credits roll. Instead it serves no real purpose other than to make you uncomfortable, and not in any sort of meaningful or interesting way, à la Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. It doesn’t spend enough time setting things up or rounding itself into a coherent whole to make the audience truly care. A real disappointment.