Ricky Gervais has done it again, made a sweet, short show that delicately and hilariously balances on the fine line between comedy and tragedy. After Life is back on Netflix for a second season.
If you’re familiar with Ricky Gervais you know that he’s a genius at creating imperfect characters that audiences fall in love with. From his original terrible boss, David Brent from 2001’s breakout hit The Office to After Life’s bluntly honest Tony, the audience is always on the protagonist’s side, even if we’re not sure why.
If you loved the honest, heartfelt storytelling of 2014’s Derek, but perhaps prefer your Ricky Gervais with a little more sass (like when he hosts the Golden Globes), After Life is the series for you. It is the work that best incapsulates Gervais’ talent for combining comedy and tragedy, until you’re not sure if you’re crying laughing, or just crying.
That’s right, run and get your tissues, you’ll need them for this one, and while you’re up you should get yourself a snack too.
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In After Life Gervais plays Tony, a journalist in a small English village who has recently lost his wife to cancer. Tony is a man who feels he has lost every and has nothing else to lose, so he decides to end it all… until the dog needs feeding.
Inadvertently saved by the dog, Tony lives long enough to realise that the fact he has nothing to lose gives him a sort of super power – he can say and do whatever he wants and if all else fails and he’s not happy “I can always kill myself,” he tells his horrified friends and co-workers.
But Tony isn’t a bad guy, he’s a grieving guy, a man who can see and feel nothing else around him but the pain he is in. Through beautifully interspersed home-movie clips that he watches of his wife the audience feels the great weight of what he has lost, and it is through his relationship with his ailing father that audiences see Tony as a man who has always tried to do the right thing, but one who is simply lost right now.
Another talent of Gervais is his gift for creating interesting background characters who end up having vital roles in the life of his main characters and it is the diverse group of characters that surround Tony that open him up to connecting again.
Tony tries to turn himself into someone who doesn’t care, who doesn’t feel, a psychopath, the trouble is he isn’t one. In true Ricky Gervais fashion, Tony comes to realise that there might be a better way to look at the world, a way he can use his new-found super power for good.
A theme of “kindness is best” is one that has run through Gervais’ work since Dereck, in After Life this theme is portrayed through a slightly darker, but more realistic lens. It is by far Gervais’ most honest work – perhaps one of the reasons it has been getting such praise from fans.
Season one of After Life was such a success Netflix quickly commissioned season two. Yes, it lives up to season one and is as easily devoured in one sitting.
Traditionally Gervais has always done two seasons of each show with a Christmas special.
However, it was recently announced that After Life will be the first series of Gervais’ with a third season, much to the delight of fans (and Netflix).
It was hard to write a review of this lovely little morsel of a show without giving too much away. In a way, everything the show is about is summed up in its title.
Whatever your opinion of Gervais or his comedy, I highly recommend watching After Life. It is a funny, dark, hopeful, and honest look at life, grief, and the impact each one of us can have on our world, no matter how small.
OUR RATING: 5/5
*Note: the show does deal with issues of suicide and suicidal thoughts