Cemetery Junction (UK - BD RA/B)
Our Marcus checks out Gervais and Merchant's jump to the big screen...
Cemetery Junction, Reading, 1973. Freddie (Christian Cooke) wants something more out of life as he starts his new job as an insurance salesman. His friends Bruce (Tom Hughes) and Snork (Jack Doolan) don’t really understand his decision and are disappointed that their dreams of running away from their small home town have been postponed because of Freddie’s new found career path.
However when Freddie bumps into his old school mate Julie (Felicity Jones) and starts seeing through the lifestyle he thought he wanted, he begins to realise what he really wants in life. Now at a crossroads, he has to make a decision that will change his life forever.
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant take the logical step from their small screen home onto the larger canvas of filmmaking and it seems to be the easiest step in the world. With The Office becoming much more than just a weekly sitcom and Extras dabbling in a more dramatic spin on the pair's writing (especially in the last episodes), Gervais and Merchant sort of hinted that their next project wouldn’t be the balls out comedy they were known for.
I’ll admit, despite being a long time Gervais devote (from the 11 o’clock show—which needs a DVD release by the way—right through to the podcasts) I didn’t really get all that excited about the release of Cemetery Junction. It seemed a little too obvious to me and it took me a little while to get around to watching it. When I did finally see it and even re-watching it for this review, I have to take my hats off to Gervais and Merchant, Cemetery Junction turned out to be a thoroughly charming little coming of age movie.
For starters the three leads provide great performances for the thoroughly likable characters. In fact, despite being an almost secondary character, Bruce, the cool guy who gets into fights was especially enjoyable and despite following a very familiar story arc, Tom Hughes brought a great deal of charisma to the role and it really made for a character to get emotionally invested in. Maybe even more so than the lead role of Freddie, who, while doing a great job, never felt quite natural enough for me.
So with the dramatic elements handled with a great sense of movie realism, what of the comedy? Well I for one found it pretty damn funny. There’s some cracking one liners and banter between the three friends, the family dynamics of Freddie's dad (played by Gervais) and his nan totally rang true to the British family unit, and even the bigger feel good laughs like Snork’s song and dance number packed a feel good chuckle that made the character even more lovable.
Admittedly the story doesn’t do anything too unfamiliar and it certainly isn’t the freshest of spins to the age old tale about leaving your childhood behind, but all the elements are handled correctly and none of them feel at all forced or lazy, so really I find it quite hard to fault Cemetery Junction as it ticks all the boxes for a great way to spend a couple of hours. I can’t wait to see what these two writer/directors do next.
With a purposely hazy bright summer look to the visuals, Cemetery Junction can look a little too bright for its own good sometimes. It’s a pleasant looking movie with some great colours, especially in character costumes, but for me the details weren’t quite there enough to say it was all round great transfer.
That said, the image is very clean, it looks great in HD, and compared to most small town movies set in Britain this feels a whole lot more filmic as opposed to a slightly higher budget TV show.
The real highlights come from the exterior shots, with the detail 70s design and sunlight glistening off of the old cars as a small child destroys a garden fence. There’s a realistic feel to the lighting and weather (despite the fact it never rains) and some of the more lively interiors such as the nightclub the gang goes to has a nice use of disco lighting and a glowing red set design.
Well considering the relative quaintness of the movie's premise, the DTS-HD Master Audio track pretty much excels itself. Music is particularly strong with a huge presence in the track. Dialogue is strong and crisp and really the combination of the two elements really delivers quite a punch.
The atmospherics for each location have a real presence—the factory feels alive, streets feel filled with realistic ambience, the club scene has quite a bit going on outside of the music and really with all this combined with the bigger elements of the track, this mix offers up a deep, thoroughly enjoyable track that is very hard to fault.
The first of the commentaries (and a reason in itself to buy the disc) is with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. If you’re a fan of their podcasts of previous commentaries then you know what a treat you’re in for and they are as on form here as ever. Down to earth insights in to movie making, memories of the shoot and details of what they wanted to achieve with Cemetery Junction, it’s all here along with plenty of laughs and that infectious Gervais laugh. In a world of fairly generic commentaries this one shines very brightly.
The second commentary with the film’s leads, Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, and Jack Doolan is a very upbeat affair and the trio obviously had blast making the movie. The combination of these commentaries in many ways made me like the movie a little bit more than I did already and really you can’t give much more praise to an extra feature than that.
The ten deleted scenes (13:36 JD) have their fair share of extra laughs and outside of the chuckles add a few extra moments to hammer home the situation Freddie is stuck in.
The blooper reel (13:42 HD) consists of fluffed lines and Gervais chuckling off camera loving every moment of the mistakes.
‘The Directors: A Conversation with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant' (15:07 HD) starts off as a heartfelt personal take on why and how the movie got made but still manages to pop in the odd gag. The pair covers the reasons for casting and how well the newcomers did with their project. They also talk about each other’s work on the film and frankly the two of them criticising each other while at work is always hilarious.
‘The Lads Look Back: The Stars Discuss Cemetery Junction’ (10:14 HD) has the three leads telling tales of the auditions and their experiences on the movie.
‘Seventies Style: Production and Costume Design’ (08:44 HD) looks at the recreation of the period and how the plan was to make it look realistic for the area and not just the era. The insight into how the colours should be a little brighter to make it feel a little more like a memory of the time as opposed to a gritty documentary about the period.
The ‘Production Featurettes’ (06:45 HD) are five short looks at the film and really introductions to the project including the filming and introductions to the cast.
Lastly there’s preview of Salt, Grown Ups[/i, [i]The Back Up Plan, Death at a Funeral, The Karate Kid (shouldn't that be Kung Fu?) and The Other Guys.
The more I watch Cemetery Junction the more I enjoy it. Admittedly, I’m quite the sucker for a good coming of age flick especially when the themes used here are handled so well, but those a little more over the genre might struggle a bit. Gervias and Merchant’s first proper swing at the big screen has proven a success and strangely without doing anything spectacular they’ve delivered a charming little comedy drama that probably works better because they haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel.
The Blu-ray itself is a bit of a looker and sounds fantastic. Combine that with the usual Gervais/Merchant fun and heartfelt features and really the whole package is winner.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 30th August 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, English Audio Descriptive Service, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Hindi
Extras: Commentary with Writers/Directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, movieIQ+syncand BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!, Cast Commentary with Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, and Jack Doolan, Deleted Scenes, The Directors: A Conversation with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, The Lads Look Back: The Stars Discuss Cemetery Junction, Seventies Style: Production and Costume Design, Featurettes - The Start of Filming, Week 1, Meet The Boys , The Directors On Set
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Cast: Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan, Ricky Gervais
Genre: Comedy, Drama and Romance
Length: 95 minutes
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