Cemetery Junction (2010)

Come on, feel the noise

It’s 1973 in deepest, darkest Reading and, amidst the medly of side burns, corduroy and Elton John, young Freddy Taylor (Christian Cooke) realises he wants more from his life. Determined to make something of himself, Freddy leaves the factory where his dad (Ricky Gervais) and best friend Bruce (Tom Hughes) works and gets a job as a besuited insurance salesman. But when he falls for the free-spirited Julie (Felicity Jones), the daughter of his new boss (Liam Neeson), Freddy realises that freedom may mean more than a good salary and a nice house.

Ricky Gervais has been steadily carving out a successful career for himself in the film industry and on the strength of Cemetery Junction – which he has co-written and directed with long-term collaborator Stephen Merchant – he may well turn out to be a far more natural director than movie star. Although this appears to start out as a straightforward 70s pastiche, content to draw cheap laughs from poking fun at the decade that taste forgot, underneath the obvious jokes there is a charming and involving coming of age tale, made all the more appealing thanks to a well-chosen cast.

Cooke is solid and likeable as Freddy, but the film really belongs to Hughes as the troubled Bruce. Good looking and arrogance, Bruce is consumed with a  palpable sense of rage at his father for letting his mother abandon them. As Bruce charms the ladies and beats up anyone who looks at him the wrong way, Huges plays him with an intensity and vulnerability that is the perfect contrast to Freddy’s level-headed dependability. Completing the line up is Jack Doolan who is hugely enjoyable as their friend Snork, a tubby comic foil who provides some of the best laugh-out-loud moments of the film- his scene-stealing performances of Slade hit Come On Feel the Noise being a particular highlight. The three of them work extremeley well together, each looking for something that may well pull them in very different directions.

Gervais and Merchant nail the 1970s small-town dynamic, and this claustrophobic, drab setting makes their colourful characters -and their far-reaching dreams – shine even more brightly.

4 stars

This review was originally published in movieScope #16

Stars Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Felicity Jones
Directors & Screenplay Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant
Certificate 15
Distributor Columbia Pictures
Running Time 1hr 25mins
Opens April 14