Fame came relatively late to Ricky Gervais, but since the success of the Office and Extras, he really has been able to do no wrong. This despite his cinematic output being rather mixed, too often playing himself in a variety of comedy performances. Returning to his roots and sticking largely behind the camera may be the best decision he has ever made.
In 1970s three working class Freddie childhood friends; Young and ambitious Freddie (Christian Cooke) swaggering but vulnerable Bruce (Tom Hughes) and lovable but embarrassing Snork (Jack Doolan) face difficult choices that could see their futures follow divirgent paths.
Anyone going in expecting the embarrassing comedy of the Office and Extras may be for in a surprise. This is a much more gentle coming of age drama, with some funny moments thrown in and if anything it is the comedy that seems misplaced – Would 22 year old kids still be drawing giant penises on billboards?
Gervais and Merchant on their first foray behind the camera for a feature film have stuck to a world they know, a world they grew up in.The directors and writers still excel at social embarassment and a scene at a company ball is tinged with heartbreak and hilarity. The young cast are all fine and will no doubt be seen in plenty more British films in the near future.
Freddie becomes the dreamer. Not wanting to go the same way as his father (Gervais is a nicely underplayed cameo), working two jobs just to make end’s meet, he takes a job with an insurance with an insurance company, aiming for nothing higher than family, kids and and a nice car. He has his opened when he meets Julie Kendrick (Felicity Jones), a childhood friend who shows him a world outside Reading.
The generational conflict is the emotional centre of the movie with the middle aged adults seemingly accpeting of a life cycle they are unable and unwilling to move out of. Bruce especially comes across with plenty of swagger and talk but can see a life beginning to mirror that of his single,downtrodden father. Emily Watson is simply stupendous as Julie’s mother and wife to Ralph Fiennes’ emotionally stunted Mr Kendrick. In on scene without a single line of dialogue she sums up a whole life unlived, while simultaneously anticipating the same fate for her daughter.
Overall Cemetery Junction is well worth a look for a British made film and cast that doesn’t look cheap or inferior to its American competition.