AFTER LIFE

Ricky Gervais’s latest series was released on Netflix last week, named After Life.

I had no idea what to expect, but it wasn’t this.

After Life is about Tony, a man in a severe depressive state after losing his wife to cancer one year ago. He’s suicidal, and lives by the ethos that he can do and say whatever he likes, however awful, because if it backfires he can “fall back” on killing himself.

It’s a lot more sincere than I expected from Gervais, and that is wonderful. It makes you laugh, makes you cry and makes you think.

The six episodes are all too short.

It’s a slow burning show, and the laughs, though genuinely funny, are tinged with poignancy. Townhall.com described it as having “real empathy, big laughs and unique perspective” and that’s dead on. It is as funny as it is deeply moving.

I have few doubts about this being Gervais’ best performance to date. His portrayal of a widower is painful, and upsetting to watch. You feel for him, you really do; but you also despair for the situation he’s making himself live in. Gervais doesn’t overplay it at all, and it’s hard to imagine him corpsing between takes because he’s so convincingly unhappy. There’s an incredible moment in the penultimate episode where he shows real emotion for the first time in the role and it knocked me back completely.

There are a whole load of other recognisable faces in this mix, all of them present in just one tiny piece of Tony’s life. The brilliant Penelope Wilton plays a woman whose husband is buried next to Tony’s wife; frequent Gervais collaborator Ashley Jensen here plays an honest nurse; Roisin Conaty a sex worker; David Bradley plays Tony’s ageing and incapable father; Joe Wilkinson plays the recurring annoying postman aptly named Pat; and little Tommy Finnegan as Tony’s nephew George is surprisingly sincere and sweet.

There’s also Tony’s office colleagues at the very un-exciting local newspaper played by Tony Way, Diane Morgan, Tom Basden, and Mandeep Dhillon who together make up a mad, eclectic group of ordinary people. It’s nothing like the office format we know and love from Gervais, but not in a bad way at all. The heart in all the characters is still very much there.

And finally, of course, Kerry Godliman plays Lisa, Tony’s beloved late wife. She’s showed to us only in past video footage: either home videos from his personal collection which shows happy memories they shared; or more touchingly, a long diary video message Lisa left for her husband fore after she died.

You can see why this man is so besotted over his wife, and it makes his loss seep into you when you’re watching her make him so happy.

It’s very well structured, and you can see the change seep into Tony’s life until it’s unavoidable for both him and the audience to actually pay attention to it. It plays on your mind, opens your eyes to difficult feelings of your own that you might see in Tony, and gently tells you how anyone can make their own situation better.

Most importantly teaches the power of hope, and the power you have over your own happiness. I loved this quote from Penelope Wilton’s character:

“Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not”.

It’s beautiful, and it means something.

I highly recommend it.

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2 thoughts on “AFTER LIFE

  1. I’m really glad it’s stretched Ricky as well, while he’s always been good at bringing out the real human element behind everything, the last 2-parter of The Office (UK) is just beautiful, After Life really steps it up by being both honest and vulnerable. So impressed!

    Liked by 1 person

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