Review by Anthony Lowery
If you only binge one series this year, make it After Life. If you binge two, watch After Life twice. The latest from Brit icon Ricky Gervais, a portrait of one man’s grieving process, is a profound lesson in honesty, humility and perspective.
For those easily offended, the name Ricky Gervais and the colourful language that often accompanies might be enough to put you off. Here he delivers something so superbly observant, so sensitive and so funny you might just hate him even more.
Tony (Gervais), the features editor of a free local newspaper, has lost his wife to cancer and with that, his will to live. While he exists only for his dog, Tony’s destructive behaviour alienates anybody he comes into contact with. What he struggles to realise, though, is that the only people he’s hurting are the ones who still care about him.
Written and directed by Gervais, and arguably his finest work since The Office, After Life is six thirty-minute episodes on a subject matter that has no right being this funny. However, its humour is tinged with sadness, its sadness tinged with humour.
The blend of comedy and drama strikes in a way that only Gervais’s brand can – that anguished soul masked by a sardonic, brutally honest facade. In many ways, Tony recalls the sweet peculiarity of his most popular characters and, while speaking to our own darkness and anger, reminds us that there’s beauty there, too.
If you’re a fan of Gervais, you’ll find a lot of familiar faces here and no character is wasted, all gently serving the bigger picture. If you’re not a fan, After Life is the show, and the slice of life, that’ll change your mind.
“Happiness is amazing. So amazing, it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not,” says Penelope Wilton’s scene-stealing Anne. With some of the sweetest, most affecting dialogue on tele right now, this Netflix original is a universal story of loss and a celebration of life in the wake of death.
Be prepared to laugh a lot, if only to hide the tears.