Cemetery Junction

Cemetery Junction


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

After the disappointing - although, arguably misunderstood - mis-step that was The Invention Of Lying, Ricky Gervais is back with TV-show collaborating buddy Stephen Merchant (who had no creative input with either Lying or the underrated Ghost Town) for their first big-screen effort - and the result is superb. Co-writing and co-directing, it's the best thing Gerv’s been involved with, dare it be said... The Office.

Set in In Seventies Reading, three friends spend all their time mucking around, drinking, fighting and chasing girls. When Freddie (Christian Cooke) gets a new job selling door-to-door life insurance, he wants to grow up - but troubled scrapper Bruce (Tom Hughes) and loveable idiot Snork (Jack Doolan) are happy with the way things are. However, after falling for an inspirational girl (Felicity Jones), Freddie's new life might not be all he hoped.

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The problem Cemetery Junction faces is that audiences will expect an out-and-out comedy - and it's not. By now we should have realised that Ricky and Steve like to tell character-based stories with humour and emotion, tales that make us laugh but have something deeper to offer. Here we get perhaps the most pertinent example of this yet, the pair admittedly taking their furthest foray into dramatic territory thus far and coming across like assured, natural filmmakers.

Yes, it's funny throughout and yes, there are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments (many coming from the impossibly-endearing Snork), but here the emphasis is on coming of age. Apparently using the lyrics of Bruce Springstein's song Thunder Road for inspiration ("It's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win", etc) the story plays out like Saturday Night Fever (young dude wanting more from his life than waiting for the weekend) by way of The Office. Minus the constant tie-adjusting and photocopying of course.

Perhaps most impressive of all is how the themes of ambition, friendship and life-affecting decisions are dealt with without resorting to mush or cheesy-sentiment. Gervais and Merchant understand that the most poignant moments are simple ones that stay true to the story. A heartbreaking golden handshake, Freddy's realisation that his new job might not be an option-filled dream after all, a son giving his father a beer... these subtle moments offer a masterclass in underplayed restraint. The plot isn't surprising and leafy, small-town Reading is capturing so idyllically that you want to visit rather than escape, but these are minor nit-picks.

Heartthrob-waiting-to-happen Cooke anchors the story well and Doolan will win the public's heart as group idiot Snork. But it's Hughes's Richard Ashcroft-ish Bruce who gets the best subplot - all swagger, father issues and cracking jail cell resolution (with the brilliant, you-know-his-face Steve Speirs). While the Gemma Arteton-like Jones is a nice love interest, your attention will be drawn to the embarrassment of riches in the supporting cast: Ralph Fiennes (the creepy boss), Matthew Goode (line boss and love rival), Emily Watson (creepy boss' nice wife), Steve Merchant in his usual cameo and - if you're sharp enough - Karl Pilkington. Throw in a cracking soundtrack and you're good to go.

The best thing since their Slough-set 9-5 office grind, Cemetery Junction is a drama-comedy (and not a comedy-drama) that should hopefully shut up the tiresome Gervais boo-boys while proving Ricky and Steve should stay together.

Reviewed on: 21 Apr 2010
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A new job spells change for three friends in the Seventies.
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Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Writer: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Starring: Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan, Felicity Jones, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode, Ricky Gervais, Julia Davis, Steve Speirs, Anne Reid, Francis Magee, Katy Murphy, Bryony Hannah, Andrew Brooke

Year: 2010

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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