Anyone familiar with my work, especially the caricatures and cartoons I post on twitter, will be aware that I’m a huge fan of the creations of Ricky Gervais.
Saying that, not just his creations but his general outlook on life, an appreciation for making every second count and for treating this insane world we live in the way it should be perceived, with warmth and good humour.
He could be easily labelled as cynical or rude from those missing the point, his humour and writing having a blunt honesty that often gets misconstrued. But for those that get it, and that is the majority of us, his writing has a positive message while addressing those uncomfortable issues regarding life.
After Life was released on Netflix this week to huge acclaim and quite rightfully so. Ricky’s latest tale is that of Tony, a reporter working for a local paper in a small town who has recently lost his wife and is now grieving and suicidal. Tony is pulled back again and again from the brink of suicide by the necessity to care for his dog. Not an immediate subject matter for comedy you might say but humour is always best found in the darkest of places.. in fact it’s probably the best place for it.
Tony soon realises in his suicidal mood that not wanting to carry on has provided him with a super power of sorts, in that he can say and do exactly as he pleases. We are treated to many scenes throughout the six episodes that have us wishing we could do the same in our day to day lives. A scene featured in the trailer of Tony addressing an obnoxious schoolboy calling him a “paedo” is a perfect example. “If I was, you’d be safe you tubby little ginger c***.” Truly beautiful, Dickens would be proud.
As the series progresses we get to meet those around Tony, his abuse suffering colleagues who obviously love him, a warm hearted prostitute who befriends him, his dementia suffering father cared for by a hard working nurse, his deceased wife played by the amazing Kerri Godliman, so many characters the list goes on, but all with a different facet to living life. Each of them the way they are for different reasons but no one truly bad. I find this while working in my own life as a caricaturist, people are caricatures not just physically but with their personalities too. I can often expect abuse at a party from the loud mouth drunk guy but find I’m often surprised by their warmth when I actually get to draw them. It’s easy to judge someone but if you wait a while almost everyone has a good side to reveal.
Tony himself is an example of this, surly and somewhat rude despite the humour of his comments, but you see his suffering and as the series progresses you feel more and more for him.
With truly stellar performances from every member of the cast this dark comedy really pulls at the heart strings in that unique Gervais way… and always with his comedies, the final episode of the series is a payoff with lessons to be learned and tears to be shed.
One lesson I learnt was that Kenneth Branagh would make a far better caricature if he wore big red glasses. Fact. You’ll have to watch the series to make sense of that last point.