It's 1973 in Cemetery Junction, a Reading suburb. Three working class lads, best friends, are coming of age. Freddie wants to rise above his station, taking a job selling life insurance, wearing a suit and tie. Snork works at the railway station and wants a girlfriend some day. Bruce talks of leaving but seems on track to work at a factory, drink and fight, and become like his dad, in front of the telly with beer on hand; and he's trying the patience of the police officer who gets him out of jams. Freddie's job leads the lads toward a few small changes. He runs across a childhood friend, Julie, his boss's daughter who's engaged to the firm's top seller. Can the lads break out?
As with many people, I have been a fan of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant ever since their days of Wernham Hogg. I was intrigued to see Felicity Jones appear in the cast list. Her role in the popular BBC Radio 4 soap “The Archers” is amazing, and I was curious to see how she would perform on screen when I have only heard her voice before.
Freddie (Cooke), Bruce (Hughes) and Snork (Doolan) are lifelong friends. Each different from one another, they have their own lives to lead. Freddie leaves the factory which Bruce works at for an insurance company where he hopes to better himself. Bruce lives a volatile life and works in said factory for pittance an hour where his only passion outside of work is getting drunk and starting fights. Snork does not work at the factory, but the local train station where he hopes to find the girl of his dreams. Arriving on the scene one day is Julie (Jones), an old romantic flame of Freddie’s whose presence is felt not just by her ex lover but her fiancé Mike Ramsay who is Freddie’s boss. The outcome of what happens will have a dreadful impact on the four main characters lives forever which will have irreparable damage on them all.
Impressively written, I was disgusted at times by the movie’s obvious racism. I do not know if Gervais and Merchant are racists, but they have a tendency in their work to use negative stereotypes of non-Caucasians. I understand that people of 1970’s England were far more obvious in their racism than they are now, but I wonder if it was necessary for this type of language to be used on more than a few occasions.
Putting this aside, the comedic aspects of the movie are spot on. The characters of Snork and Bruce are both funny and touching, and with the unlikely cameo of Brian Gittins as Brian the dirty minded café owner, this movie has a broad sense of comedy which teenagers or young adults would find most suitable.
In many films I find the directing by some to be distasteful and unprofessional. But here, the film has two directors and this must have improved the decisions made into how each shot was done or the pace of a pan or zoom for example. As the directors in question are Gervais and Merchant you would expect to find influences from “The Office” being used, and here nearly the same technique is adopted. The camera never intrudes on the actors and actresses, and at times the stable camera movement simply allows those on screen to give it their all and show what they can do when placed in front of a piece of technology and given the chance to flex their thespian skills.
Having only heard of Felicity Jones before, whose character of Emma Grundy in the long running BBC Radio 4 soap “The Archers” has enthralled me for years, I was unnerved when seeing that her fellow leading co-stars are people I have not heard of before. I was impressed by Christian’s portrayal of Freddie when he tries to better himself, and the token tough guy Bruce was handled very well by Hughes. Aspects of a young Brando were evident in Hughes’ Bruce, and his carefree attitude was refreshing considering when he is not that well known. Nearly every film has to have a comedic character, and Doolan does extremely well. He is obviously an intelligent person, and to pull off a character as dim and idiotic as Snork is nothing short of remarkable.
I admit that I did not know what to think of this film before watching it, but found that by its end I was impressed by the efforts of all involved. British films like this one do not come along often, but when they do it is certainly worth the wait.