From the directors of The Office and Extras, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have written and directed an outstanding film. Based in Reading in the 1970’s, the film follows three young lads growing up in a dull town, all wanting more from life. Through these three main characters, we are shown a huge difference in their upbringings, lifestyles and, therefore, aspirations in life. Although they all want the same thing, each is tackling life in their own individual way. We start to understand the reasoning behind these differences in beliefs and efforts as the film begins to shape contrasting lifestyles around them.
Freddie (Christian Cook) has a middle-class lifestyle. His parents are still together, reflecting a warm atmosphere in the household through witty insults between family members. The film opens with him being interviewed for a new job. He says, “I don’t want to come home with grease on my hands and have nothing to show for it.” Freddie has great aspirations for his future, devoting everything towards finding a wife, family and being able to afford his own home with all its luxuries. “You draw the cocks, you draw the tits and I’ll do something with my life,” he tells his friends.
This is then contrasted against the lifestyle of his best friend Bruce (Tom Hughes), the rebellious character of the gang; constantly drinking, smoking, provoking trouble, sleeping with women and being sent to prison for the night. He works in a minimum wage factory and has no inspiration to do anything more with his life. Although wants to get out of Cemetery Junction, he would only do so if Freddie gave up his ambitions and came with him.
Bruce’s character comes from a broken, less wealthy, family compared to Freddie. His mother left the family for another man, leaving his father in despair, lounging around all day, unemployed and drinking beer. Bruce now spends his time at home blaming and insulting his father but his realisation at the end of the film is extremely heart-warming.
Gervais and Merchant, although both male comedians, also manage to brilliantly portray the lifestyles of women in the misogynistic way that they were treated in the 70’s. Freddie finds out that his boss’s daughter, Julie (Felicity Jones), is an old friend who is now engaged to one of Freddie’s work colleges. Their relationship blossoms and they soon realise that they have similar desires in life. Julie wants to be a travelling photographer but her fiancé jokes that “it’s just a silly phase that women go through.”
Freddie was first inspired by his boss as a successful businessman with a posh car and big house, until he observed how he treated his family. Julie’s mother (Emily Watson) is a painfully sad character to watch. Freddie describes her as a ghost, moving around the house unnoticed by her husband. Julie starts to wonder whether her fiancee will turn out like her father, and realises that she doesn’t want to be in the same situation as her mother in a marriage. By offering her fiancé a cup of tea, Julie makes a life-changing decision about her future with him.
Gervais commented that he didn’t think his fans of The Office and Extras should expect anything different with his newest production. He said: “I don’t think the audience should be that surprised…There has always been an emotional journey and, dare I say it, quite poignant, teary moments.” But nothing he has written before has offered this raw emotion that is so true to life. And that’s what it is; a dramedy that is realistic in every way, be it the characters, their situations, or their relationships, especially, as the most important theme to the film.
Cemetery Junction makes you laugh along and want to cry in all the right places. This balance between a witty comedy reflecting Gervais’ and Merchant’s talents placed alongside a moving and honest storyline is why this film will most likely be their most successful production up to date.