Directors: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
Starring: Christian Cooke, Felicity Jones, Tom Hughes
In cinemas: April 14
As the first feature film by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, many will be eagerly anticipating the release of Cemetery Junction. The pair are the Marmite of comedy writers, with as many loyal and devoted fans as blood-spitting trolls misspelling comments on YouTube. I never really took to The Office myself – some of the situations were just too cringey; I ended up diving behind the sofa every five minutes and watching through the gaps in my fingers. I was slightly worried when I went to view Cemetery Junction – diving behind a cinema seat can be awkward – but my fears were unfounded: It’s as funny and clever as anything they’ve written but without any seat-squirming humiliation.
Cemetery Junction is about wanting to escape and wanting to do something with your life, and it evokes the feeling perfectly. Set in Reading in the 1970s, Freddie Taylor wants more out of life than his parents have, and leaves the factory his Dad works in for a job as a suit wearing, door-to-door life insurance salesman. As he struggles to balance his ambitions with small town life, and the expectations of his background, he and his friends figure out what they want from life and how to just live. It sounds awfully sugary, but it isn’t: it’s touching but very delicately handled. There’s nothing harrowing – they are just hardworking people with individual takes on their lot, and its poignancy lies in its simplicity and relevance.
Being set in ‘the past’ it has some stylistic similarities with TV programs like Mad Men and Life on Mars – i.e. lots of smoking and outdated attitudes – but manages to avoid beating you over the head with the usual message: “Look how funny we are with our ironic sexism and lung cancer! Wasn’t the past just full of pricks?”, it treats the era with affection, if not actual nostalgia. It’s a time gone by, and perhaps thankfully so, but these were people with lives and hopes and dreams and deserving of respect. Your background may affect your lifestyle but it doesn’t change your heart.
In a nutshell: A wonderful film that will have you smiling all the way through. Even if you’re not a Gervais fan, make this movie the exception.