In the 1900s Paris lives these gold diggers and they have made a career out of it. Being socially ostracized, Lea has very little friends and terming them friends is not right. Madame Peloux is the sneaky and malicious spiteful old lady and Lea goes to her house for socializing. She hate to go there but she would go mad if she does not get out of her luxurious house built up by her lovers. There she picks up Cheri, the nineteen year old son of Peloux being disgusted by the wealthy debauchery he is living through. His childhood appears to gawk at empty rooms while his mother was busy making her clients happy. And the time she would have spent with him can be imagined to be viciously boring. He grew up seeing Lea and that meeting ignites for Lea to take Cheri along with her. What was supposed to be few weeks becomes six years. We are given a quick look at their initial phase of falling in love but we really see their affection once they are separated.
Madame Peloux is an outsider looking for some completion in her life in all the wrong ways. She chooses the old method of getting grandchildren would make her happy. While she happily let Cheri to be with Lea who of course paid for his service, she now wants him back so that he can be properly married. Lea wants to show a tough face and will not give up breaking out especially to Peloux. Cheri seems to be unaware of the consequence. He knows it is a turn in his life but believes to have his way. Lea knows it and cuts him off. She suffers good and really good for that. Cheri is equally miserable. His marriage goes bodily and his wife Edmee (Felicity Jones) is a daughter of another courtesan who is so bogged up in her profession that she has to leave right after the marriage. Edmee knows everything about Cheri and that is tough to confront. Since everyone is aware of the situation and the possibilities, it is not stealthy but hurtful.
It is a love story and as any serious love story, it is tragic. Its characters live in a world developed by their lifestyle and try to exist out of the norm. Lea have had many lovers in her past and more than once had fallen for them. She has a trusted and friendly maid with whom she confides and talks about the time she was hurt like this. Not like this. Kathy Bates especially makes her character to be bloated with a reptilian characteristic. Lea knows her venom and every scene they are together it is a fencing match.
“Cheri” is a tough film to be made. It does not show the six years of their greatest time of love between Lea and Cheri. It follows through the cutting of that chord. Both of them very much and truly in love are caught up in the defined obligations and the assumption that they can get over it. Cheri tries it with his wife while Lea goes on traveling and finding a replacement for Cheri. It does not work. What is the end to it? Stephen Frears, the brilliant director of “The Queen” as the voice of the narrator tells the after math which is moving and in a sense helpless of the nature of this emotion called love.