or: Coming-of-age, Britain, 1973
One word to sum it up: Light
Out of the four movies which I endeavoured to watch last week, I was least looking forward to watching Cemetery Junction. However, out of those four movies, Cemetery Junction was definitely the best. For anyone who has doubts about Ricky Gervais trying to make his way into the film industry, then watch this one. His previous efforts, The Invention of Lying and Ghost Town left little to be desired, and marked a failure on the usually funny man's part. However, taking a more serious turn and co-directing with Stephen Merchant, Cemetery Junction is his success. And what a success it is.
It's 1973 in Cemetery Junction, a Reading suburb. Three working class lads, best friends, are coming of age. Freddie (Christian Cooke) wants to rise above his station, taking a job selling life insurance, wearing a suit and tie. Snork (Jack Doolan) works at the railway station and wants a girlfriend some day. Bruce (Tom Hughes) talks of leaving but seems on track to work at a factory, drink and fight, and become like his dad, in front of the telly with beer on hand; and he's trying the patience of the police officer who gets him out of jams. Freddie's job leads the lads toward a few small changes. He runs across a childhood friend, Julie (Felicity Jones), his boss's daughter who's engaged to the firm's top seller. Can the lads break out?
I did have a feeling that I had seen a film like Cemetery Junction before, as it adopted several cliches usually seen in a coming of age film. However, it's the clear dedication from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant which tops everything else. The script is quite serious, but has the added humour from Gervais coming through which helps make the movie flow. Any child of the 70s, or anyone who is growing up, will understand this movie. It's a poignant tale, but really engages in the theme of following your heart. No, it doesn't get too soppy. Instead, I couldn't help but feel somewhat liberated after watching it.
The three main characters, Freddie, Snork and Bruce, all represent different aspects of growing up. Freddie wants to be someone, even if that means selling life insurance to people who don't need nor want it. He's the epitome of someone who wants to be good, but just can't be good enough, because of the people surrounding him. Snork, on the other hand, just wants a girlfriend. He's the kind of character you could see in real life, perhaps without that rather disturbing tattoo. Bruce, is the thug, with a sort of detached relationship with his father, which all of us can relate to in one way or another. I think his behaviour comes out of being so in need or attention, which seems to be the case these days. Using the three characters to portray becoming adults was not only a good choice, but a clever and very realistic way to tell the story.
Along with the three young leads, Cemetery Junction has an appearance from Ricky Gervais. Ralph Fiennes, however, steals the show with his scintillating and fierce performance as Freddie's boss. Matthew Goode is like his little shadow. Felicity Jones, the fragile and cute faced up and coming actress, is perfect as Freddie's love interest. If anything, Cemetery Junction is a largely character based dark comedy which has the 70's downpat. The costumes, set design and soundtrack produce a fantastic backdrop to a very enjoyable movie. Doesn't demand too much, but it made me really happy in the long run.
THE VERDICT: A fantastic job by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Delightful and poignant, I'd definitely go for this one again.