Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have got together for their first feature film collaboration to take us back to 1970's Reading (at last!).

Keep reading (pun?) to find out what we thought of the film... Cemetery Junction (15)

Starring: Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan, Felicity Jones, Ricky Gervais
Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Running time: 95 minutes
Trailer: Watch it here

In a nutshell: Three best friends, Freddie, Bruce and Snork, living in working class Reading in the 70s come to a turning point in their lives - who will leave and who will be left behind?

What's the background? It's a film clearly influenced by Gervais' own background as a working class boy from Reading. Obviously he did get out and go onto "better things" and his characters have always displayed this same urge, from Martin Freeman trying to escape the office to Andy Millman looking for a way out of extras work. And this autobiographical bent is noticeable throughout (anyone who saw his interview with American comedian Gary Shandling will recognise the reference in naming a character after one of the Banana Splits).

What's good about it? Gervais and Merchant have always been keen to keep up with the quality of stuff coming out of America and they have taken big steps to make this look like a 'proper' film. It's shot in widescreen, looks beautiful, has an expressive soundtrack and takes care over its set design. The cast are impressive, in particular Jack Doolan wrings a lot of laughs out of the hapless Snork whilst Tom Hughes and Felicity Jones bring weight to what could have been slim "angry boy" and "pretty girl" roles. The supporting cast as well are solid with Emily Watson in particular wringing more humanity out of her short time on screen than she has any right to do. There are a few solid laughs to be had, predictably from Gervais' dead beat dad and his politically incorrect mum (Anne Reid). The film is also not afraid of stepping into emotional territory and there is a wonderful confrontational scene between Tom Hughes' Bruce and Steve Speirs playing the local copper. Also, two words: 'Snork singing'

What's not so good? For a film so obsessed with ambition it disappointingly displays little of its own. Set in a handful of locations and never stretching itself stylistically beyond the odd musical montage, slow motion dance routine or fist fight. The direction is solid but Gervais and Merchant, whilst undeniably able to get good performances from their young cast, display minimal visual flair. You just know from the very first scene that whether or not the characters do escape to see the big wide world we won't be taken with them.

Verdict:
A solid film with strong performances and some engaging characters. As good as it is, being merely 'good' isn't something Merchant and Gervais have ever aspired to be and this film unfortunately doesn't live long in the memory.

Rating:
7/10

CATEGORIES Reviews