Film Review + Trailer: Cemetery Junction (15)By Kim Francis
April 21, 2010
Stars Ricky Gervais, Felicity Jones, Christian Cooke, Ralph Fiennes
Cheeky nods only Redingensians will get the whole of Reading has waited with bated breath for local boy Ricky Gervais’s cinematic ode to his hometown. Now, Cemetery Junction has finally hit movie theatres.
And despite its setting being virtually unrecognisable from Reading as we know it – and even as it was back in the70s when the film is set – there are still plenty of Reading references that will have local audiences nudging each other and grinning.
Freddie Taylor (Christian Cooke) is a young man dreaming of a bigger and better life away from the mundanity of small-town living. Now in his early 20s, Freddie feels he has outgrown his youth – days spent whiling away the hours with friends Bruce (Tom Hughes) and Snork (Jack Doolan), getting into scrapes and chasing women.
He dreams of flash cars and a big house in the suburbs. Wanting to build a better life for himself, he takes a job with an insurance firm with his eye firmly on the career ladder.
Bruce has other ideas. He talks constantly about leaving but never does anything about it. Instead, he continues to rebel, starting fights and getting into trouble.
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When Freddie reignites his friendship with boss’s daughter and childhood sweetheart Julie (Felicity Jones), he is inspired to follow her travel dreams and to act on Bruce’s hollow words, deciding to leave town. With Bruce and Snork keen to follow, he sets about persuading Julie – trapped in a loveless relationship – to go too. His decision to go proves the catalyst for sparking all four friends into action and all are forced to make some important life choices.
Cemetery Junction is a bittersweet coming-of-age comedy drama that, although formulaic, is involving and funny.
The young cast brings a good dose of believability and sympathy to characters, particularly Tom Hughes as rebel-without-a-cause Bruce whose swaggering bad-boy-in-pain will have you falling in love. Felicity Jones also does a great job in bringing charm and likeability to her less well-sketched character.
Emily Watson, meanwhile, is wonderful in her captivating, understated way as Julie’s mother – drawing our sympathies with a simple look.
Redingensians will breathe a sigh of relief that the town is not subjected to the overly-vicious acerbic witticisms of Gervais in the same way the home of The Office suffered – instead, Reading is painted as a quiet, almost idyllic everytown, perfectly lovely for those who aspire to the simple life but unbearably stifling for those who yearn for adventure.
Redingensians will also appreciate the in-jokes like no other person who sees this film. Sit in a Reading cinema and the place will erupt at the cheeky nods to the old Majestic nightclub and the Whitley area of town.
The film’s funniest moments are when Gervais is on screen. Playing Freddie’s father, family scenes involving Julia Davies as Freddie’s mum and Anne Reid as Freddie’s gran are relentlessly funny and are the key to the film’s success.
A cameo from collaborator Stephen Merchant also raises a few laughs and eagle-eyed Gervais enthusiasts will enjoy spotting a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it walk-on from sidekick Karl Pilkington.
Cemetery Junction may not be the off-kilter masterpiece fans are expecting but it’s certainly an extremely watchable, touching, funny and confident debut buoyed by some excellent performances. It also deserves an extra star for putting Reading firmly on the map.