Review: Cemetery Junction

SARAH MCCANN: ‘Enjoy this film for what it really is: a shameless soak in the murky bathtub that is 1973.’

Christian Cooke Jack Doolan Ricky Gervais Stephen Merchant Tom Hughes

Directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. 

The more conventional cousin of last year’s The Boat That Rocked, Cemetery Junction is brought to life by its rich soundtrack and vibrant wardrobe. Gervais and Merchant have really come into their own of late, with this piece of 70s wonderment following their The Invention of Lying, and I’d say this one is miles better. 

You’ve got everything you’d possibly want and more: the power trio of gorgeous James Dean-style rebel (Tom Hughes), floppy-haired romantic-type (Christian Cooke), and socially-inept loud-mouth (Jack Doolan), supported by the damsel-in-distress (Felicity Jones), and the palpably brilliant performances of the irrevocably racist working-class family (Ricky Gervais; Julia Davis; Anne Reid). And of course, there’s a beautiful moment where Stephen Merchant and his on screen-wife take over for a few glorious seconds in a truly English skit.

Comedy, yes there’s plenty, but to think of this as just another Merchant-Gervais funny film is to miss a big chunk of maturity that they’ve discovered since their last one. The story of Freddy wanting to make good for himself and escape the rut is pretty moving, but not so romanticised that we become desensitised to other touching moments later in the film. You don’t expect Gervais’ character to be in the background as much as he is though, and he’s clearly going for the serious-acting malarkey. But all’s not lost! We still get some good David Brent style ramblings that will satisfy any The Office lover. 

Gervais and co wouldn’t win any prizes for the most inventive plot, it’s one in a long line of boy-meets-girl, boy-rescues-girl-from-uncaring-fiancé, and there are some parts where revelling in the 70s environment compromises the pace of the plot. But you forget all that when Bruce (Hughes) gets his fists out in a pub-brawl, or when Snork tries to be smooth with the girls and comes out with the best bread-based anecdote ever seen on screen. 

With period films there is always a temptation to fling hits from the era at your audience in an attempt to remind them when they are. In Cemetery Junction, this convention is not overused and the music is too good to care: a bit of Bowie, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Slade and Roxy Music are all thrown in there. 

If you appreciate the best years of rock and roll, or actually if you have any understanding of the concept of music at all, then you’ll enjoy this film for what it really is: a shameless soak in the murky bathtub that is 1973.