20th Jun2019

‘After Life: Season 1’ Review (Netflix)

by Chris Cummings


Ricky Gervais is someone who can be a bit hit and miss for many people. I remember seeing The Office back when it first started on BBC 2 and really liked the dead-pan humour, the sarcastic tone, and the awkward comedy that Gervais and Co brought. I enjoyed Extras too, and thought it was a nice concept that was done really well. I wasn’t, however, a fan of much of his work since. It’s subjective, because many people have enjoyed those things, like Derek. I didn’t. That’s fine. So, when After Life came onto Netflix in March of this year (2019) I wasn’t perhaps as interested as I would have been years ago. I did like the sound of the summary though, and so I finally gave it a shot.

Gervais plays Tony, a man whose life was turned upside down when he lost his wife to cancer. His whole world was flipped on its head and his entire personality followed it. He went from a humorous and kind person to a changed man with a bitter and angry view of the world. He decides that he wants to live long enough to last out at the people he now has a deep destain for, and then end his life when he’s had enough of doing so. I won’t go further, because telling you about the if’s, when’s, where’s and if’s of After Life’s mere six episodes would be a shame, it’s a show you should really experience as it goes on, naturally.

Gervais, here, is the best I’ve ever seen him. He brings a dry wit to his role, which fans of his stand-up will be familiar with, yet also a real emotional depth and truth. I was quite shocked how moving some of the scenes were in the show, as we see Tony watching videos of his wife, remembering the life he once had, and struggling to adapt to the life he now found himself walking through. The tearful eyes, the small expressions, the anger and fury at the world, it’s all done superbly well by Ricky, and though it might be a little soon to say so, I think this might just be my favourite thing that he’s ever done.

The cast are very good. Aside from Gervais himself, I particularly liked Mandeep Dhillon who plays Tony’s new co-worker on the local newspaper, Sandy. She is a warm and kind soul, smart and intuitive, and she brings a viewers-eye to the screen that is necessary. Ashley Jensen (Extras) as Tony’s father’s nurse, Emma, is also a questioning character who pushes Tony to question his path, and his views. She’s great too. Really, there aren’t any roles that don’t work, and each character, from he smaller side-characters who work with Tony, to his family and friends, to his lovely dog, brings something to the series, and adds a dynamic that helps push the story forward.

The subject matter is a hard one to watch a show about, especially a show that, at times, is a comedy show. It handles it well, with a real honesty about it. It doesn’t shy away from talking about difficult or taboo subjects. It doesn’t shy away from showing a real venom in Tony, a hatred for his situation, for his loss. It swears and shouts, it grits its teeth and it struggles, and in doing so, and bringing these feelings to the forefront it feels genuine, authentic. Gervais wrote and directed the six episodes, and deserves a big ole pat on the back for doing so, and doing it so well. The tone is dark much of the time, there are some things that perhaps felt a little close-to-the-bone, but that’s what needed to happen here. Seeing a person grieving, and fighting against his place, just wouldn’t work as well if the tone and language and everything else is timid, saccharine and false.

After Life  is a real revelation, and shows that Gervais still has plenty of stories left to tell, and stories worth telling too, better than any he’s told prior. I urge you to give it a shot, and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the now-announced series 2 when it comes to Netflix in the future.


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