Movies: Cemetery Junction * * *
(15A, general release)
Reunited for the first time since Extras, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant co-wrote and co-directed this comic drama set in smalltown England in the early 70s. As I was watching it, I kept thinking I don't remember the 70s being this grim, but then again I didn't grow up in Reading. Ricky Gervais did, and it's presumably his childhood memories that inform this light but quite effective little film.
Christian Cooke and Tom Hughes play Freddie and Bruce, two likely lads from the wrong side of the Reading tracks (Cemetery Junction, to be precise) who find themselves at a crossroads in their young lives. Freddie has decided to leave the factory where his father Len (Ricky Gervais) works and get himself a job at an insurance company.
At its head is a Cemetery Junction legend called Mr Kendrick (Ralph Fiennes), who has made it good big time. Kendrick sees something of himself in Freddie, and takes a shine to him, but not as much of a shine as Freddie has taken to Kendrick's daughter, Julie (Felicity Jones). She's engaged to an oily colleague called Mike Ramsay (Matthew Goode), but seems to have more in common with Freddie. Bruce, meanwhile, sees Freddie's new job as a betrayal, and soon Freddie himself will find his values compromised by his new life.
Though it perhaps overdoes the rampant sexism a bit, Cemetery Junction does a good job of evoking the painful brittleness of the upwardly mobile in 70s Britain. It's a charming film overall, if a little lightweight, and Gervais (surprise, surprise) saves some of the funniest lines for himself.