Starring: Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, Ricky Gervais

Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Writer(s): Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Cinematography: Remi Adefarasin

Original Score: Tim Atack

Running Time: 96 Mins.

To this point Ricky Gervais career on the silver screen has failed to inspire much confidence in his abilities to transport both his success and talents from television based work to something on a grander scale. In front and behind the camera he has proven to be, like most comedians, an acquired taste and while those that are fans have remained forever faithful through such self-indulgent tripe as Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying they are unlikely to ever convert any of those who find Gervais personal brand of comedy, shall we say, a mite smug!

Alas it would seem that while I am still to see the funny side to the man himself, Cemetery Junction proves that he certainly has one hell of an eye for direction and an even better skill when it comes to writing, though credit too to Stephen Merchant who it would seem is the only person capable of reigning in the more smug attributes and shape a story as acutely observed and wonderfully realised as Cemetery Junction, a film that charts the different paths of three 20-somethings in their quest for meaning in life and love whilst trying to escape from the mundane existence they have in the titular village/town.

At one stage entitled “All the Young Dudes”, after the Bowie song (which suffice to say features on the film’s cracking 70’s soundtrack), Cemetery junction follows in the footsteps of such brilliant coming-of-age tales that include Saturday Night Fever and more recently Starter For 10, obvious nods to Fever as both are 70’s-set but the difference here being that this is British through and through. Though thankfully avoiding that quaint British-ness that all too often prevails in Richard Curtis style stories, this is a film that embraces the era and setting while never at any stage slips into being simply a nostalgia-fest, often the easy-laugh route as Starter for 10 had a slight tendency to do at times.

Instead Gervais and Merchant’s screenplay delves deep into what it means to find your way in life and all the while proving to be both warm, funny and engaging, though those expecting the usual sardonic or stupid humour that accompanies the partnership’s work will be left disappointed, this is the kind of humour that has gentle digs acting as the best kind of observational humour, realistic dialogue between people is where the humour stems from. Of course if you can identiify with the story it helps but I defy anyone not to be moved by these characters and their plight, escaping from the small town is something most have either faced or are facing right now along with the dilemma of where your life is leading!

Of course great dialogue stands for very little without a great cast to deliver it, and in opting to cast largely unknown actors in the central roles an excellent choice was made for each actor becomes their character with no preconceptions about their traits, Cooke, Hughes and Doolan give performances as observed and nuanced as the script requires, even the more well-known cast members play to their strengths and transcend expectations with Fiennes and Goode suitably snooty and disregarding of their respective partners of mother (Watson) and daughter (a dead ringer for a younger Gemma Arterton).

Unsurprisingly there are some classic supporting characters, with Gervais himself even managing to play down his usual smugness as the father of one of the boys and the exchanges in the family home are classics containing dialogue that deservedly is gaining critical plaudits from most. Most surprising is how adept Gervais and Merchant are at presenting their story, direction in this kind of film is often a moot point especially if the performance and script are good but here there is real visual spark and it is shot and edited with much more flair than I ever expected to see, factor in a cracking soundtrack and some stunningly beautiful cinematography I would  even go as far as to say this is sure to go down as one of the years best, which is something of a surprise coming from a past Gervais-hater!

VERDICT

Excellent, in a word, Cemetery Junction is a wonderfully observed coming-of-age story that manages to impress in all areas, something of a shock considering who is behind its brilliance…something which goes to show some talents are best left behind the camera!   

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