Review: After Life

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Emotive

One of Gervais' most poignant, heart-warming creations yet.

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Ricky Gervais has done it again: after the release of Derek in 2012, Gervais has followed up with one of his most popular works yet, After Life, which premiered on Netflix on 8th March 2019 and features many familiar faces. Although he has received much positive feedback from fans, it’s apparent that many critics are questioning his usual dark humour. This is nothing new, and if you are to watch any of Gervais’ works, After Life is most definitely a great place to start.

Following the grieving process of the protagonist Tony (Ricky Gervais) as he mourns his recently deceased wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman), this show explores the emotional journey of his everyday life, working at the local newspaper, looking after his dog, going to therapy and his interactions with others. The trivial nature of the small-town news features which Tony must report allows for a humorous experience as we witness Tony’s uncaring attitudes towards them. This humour is paired, rather strangely, with a sense of hope and optimism within his job, particularly in the understanding nature and fresh attitude towards journalism which the new employee, Sandy (Mandeep Dhillon), demonstrates. Tony ‘shows her the ropes’, and in doing so forms a relationship which creates a slightly more entertaining experience on the job.

Tony’s unlikely relationship with Anne (Penelope Wilton) is an emotive one, as they bond over their grief and support each other through advice: Anne tells Tony that ‘the thing you lost is the same thing that can stop that pain’, and this advice resonates throughout the show. A loving side of Tony is highlighted in his interactions with his nephew, creating a heart-warming scene which ultimately fights the stigma of depression. In highlighting the loving side of something so often displayed as uncomfortably troublesome, Gervais breaks down the damaging stigma which exists surrounding depression and suicide whilst also combining the seriousness of the topic with a sense of humour. Alongside the exploration of depression and suicide, this show also depicts the brutal reality of addiction, further breaking the stigma surrounding the disease. This focus on addiction allows for extremely emotional scenes of dire hopelessness, leaving the audience mirroring Tony’s grief.

This combination of sadness, humour and hopefulness creates an all-encompassing experience of emotions, which Gervais exploits in the soundtrack he chose. Featuring the rather eclectic sounds of Lou Reed, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Daughter and many more, After Life demonstrates the power of music within TV, leaving the audience entirely encapsulated in Tony’s emotional process. After Life highlights distressing themes such as suicide, self-harm and the hopeless feelings of grief, which at first may prove upsetting to viewers. However, as the show progresses it is clear Gervais wishes to evoke something much more powerful. Through the use of Tony’s dog and the new employee Sandy, we begin to realise this show ultimately explores the unlikely positives which occur in life. The ‘look on the dog’s face’ in episode one acts as a symbol of hope and reason for life, an obvious homage to Gervais’ personal love and relationship with animals in his campaigning.

This show is a definite must-watch: although some critics are unmoved by Gervais’ dark humour within such serious topics, this show is one which will leave you laughing, crying and feeling everything all at once.

Click on the link below to watch the official trailer for After Life:

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Live Editor 2019/20. English student who loves writing about gigs.

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