The 70's had arrived. Times were changing. Reading wasn't. From Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant comes a hilarious and heartwarming new comedy about three friends who dream of breaking free from the mundane world of Cemetery Junction. Knowing that they can't spend the rest of their lives drinking, fighting and joking around they are forced to make a choice. Nothing is quite as simple as it should be especially when one of them falls for his boss's daughter who to complicate matters further is already engaged to be married. To get what they want they'll need to break the rules, whatever the cost.
“When are we leaving?” These four words never meant so much to this reviewer, simply because he continues dreaming of the day when he can break out of The System to experience life as it is in the world out there. This simple yet poignant dialogue is featured at the 64th minute of this 95 minute movie. And it struck a chord with him that with the right outlook in life, it is never too late to be young, be free and be somebody.
Okay, so this reviewer conveniently lifted the movie’s tagline. But it also means that, this drama set in the 1970s has achieved its objective in inspiring the audiences today in the 21st century.
The story unfolds in Cemetery Junction, where three best friends are finding themselves in the coming of age era. Freddie, the good looking one, wants to pursue a life insurance career wearing a nice suit and tie. Bruce, the rebellious one, works in a factory by day and picks up fight in a club by night, but continually wants to leave his hometown in pursuit of a better future. Snork, the geeky one, works at a railway station and longs to have a girlfriend one day. So the three young men go about exploring different life adventures, and by the movie’s end credits, discover what it really means to pursue your dreams in real life.
The first thing that catches our attention is Richard Gervais’ name on the DVD cover. We know he has done good stuff like The Invention of Lying (which never made it to local cinemas – what’s wrong with local distributors?) and episodes of the popular TV series Extras and The Office, but what’s up with this nostalgic drama? Is it in the same league as the dry and witty humour we have seen in his previous directorial efforts? Or will he resort to exploiting emotions like his counterparts from Hollywood?
Thankfully, Gervais, together with Stephen Merchant (his partner in crime for The Office), has written an effectively affecting movie with commendable messages to relay.
If you are familiar with coming of age stories, chances are that you’d be cynical with the themes they contain by now. But this sharply written screenplay does not dumb you with been there done that tactics. Instead, it takes on an honest but light hearted approach to remind you of the ideals you once had, if you haven’t forgotten them already. The protagonists’ emotions are heartfelt and candid, and you can always trust Gervais and Merchant to pack in some clever punches.
It was also a perfect decision to cast relatively unknowns Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes and Jack Doolan in the three lead roles. Their earnest performances are charismatic and sincere, so viewers can connect with them emotionally. Elsewhere, veteran actors like Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson take on supporting roles. Even Gervais himself has a role in the well made movie.
With poignant and real life issues presenting itself in a fine script like that, it’s hard not to recommend this to today’s skeptical audiences.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
There are two commentary tracks here to give you further insight about the production of the movie. The Commentary with Writers/ Directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant is wittily put across, and illustrates the wonderful chemistry between the pairing. The Cast Commentary with Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, and Jack Doolan is also an entertaining one, having you believe that the trio is really best friends in real life. These Brits are good.
There are also 10 Deleted Scenes amounting 14 minutes and a very hilarious 14 minute Blooper Reel (the best starring Gervais himself) in the Special Features section.
The Directors: A Conversation with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant is a 15 minute featurette where you think about where the inspiration for this movie came from. You’d be surprised it started with a Bruce Springsteen song. The Lads Look Back: The Stars Discuss Cemetery Junction is a 10 minute featurette where Cooke, Hughes and Doolan reflect on how they became part of the production, beginning from the auditions to how they become emotionally engaged with their characters. The section is rounded up with Previews for movies like A Single Man, Youth in Revolt and Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky.
There is nothing to complain about the movie's visual transfer. You can choose to watch it in English, Thai or French Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks.
by John Li
Posted on 12 September 2010