Escaping the Dead End
I've always found Ricky Gervais's sense of humour to be an acquired taste and not really mine but I was pleasantly surprised when I watched "Cemetery Junction" because the collaboration of Gervais and Stephen Merchant has created something different to what you may expect. I say different purely because of the type of humour as otherwise "Cemetery Junction" is in fact a familiar movie, a coming of age storyline about 3 young adults finally growing up. It's not a new concept and the basis of the movie will be familiar as we watch Freddie realise he has out grown his friends as they want different things but it still works. In many ways its USP is the fact it is a coming of age set in Britain during the 70s and so for some there will be a nostalgic connection.
Having grown up in the Reading suburb of Cemetery Junction three friends Freddie (Christian Cooke), Bruce (Tom Hughes) and Snork (Jack Doolan) find themselves at a crossroads in life. Freddie doesn't want to end up like his father who after a day at the factory comes home and talks ignorant rubbish whilst sitting around the dinner table, it is why he has got himself a job selling life insurance. Bruce despite constant threats to leave never does, works in the factory and gets himself into numerous fights out of anger at his father who he thinks is a waste of space. And then there is Snork who wants a girlfriend but doesn't know how to get one or behave in an appropriate way. But with Freddie working at the insurance company and bumping into old friend Julie (Felicity Jones) things are about to change.
I've lost count at the number of coming of age movies I have seen and in many ways "Cemetery Junction" is no different to what I have already seen. Are 3 central characters of Freddie, Bruce and Snork all discover something which makes them change their attitude and basically grow up with the central focus of these 3 being Freddie as he doesn't want to end up like his dad but slowly realises that selling life insurance may not be for him either. There is some depth to this especially when it comes to Freddie's story as he initially thinks selling insurance will be his way out but slowly realises that it will suck the life out of him as much as working in the factory. But it is all very familiar and covers familiar ground.
But "Cemetery Junction" has a USP, it is set in Britain during the early 70s and so for those who were young adults back in 1973 and trying to find their way in life will be able to connect to it. It is one of those things about these nostalgic coming of age movies as they always seem to work for a certain group of people and less so for others and I would imagine that the nostalgic humour on show doesn't work in other countries. Having said that as a Brit born in the early 70s the familiar humour which often revolves around ignorance and racist comments works in an almost uncomfortable manner. You laugh at the way things were, a joke about not listening to poof music but putting on some Elton John is funny but it also feels uncomfortable hearing some of the ignorant stuff which was the norm.
What certainly works are the performances and whilst we have Ricky Gervais, Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson in the roles of parents it is the younger stars who make the movie work. From the almost James Corden like humour of Jack Doolan as Snork through to the beauty of Felicity Jones as Julie there is not a bad performance. Although whilst you could say that Christian Cooke as Freddie is the lead it is the rebelliousness of Tom Hughes as Bruce which is the most eye catching as he moodily moves around every single scene.
What this all boils down to is that "Cemetery Junction" is for many just another coming of age movie dealing with young adults trying to find their place in the world. But it does have greater appeal for those who can relate to the era which in this case is Britain in 1973 and will provide some nostalgic amusement for those who can connect.