Life is hard. When me and my wife split last year I was lost and angry at the world. I took it out on everyone at work, almost lost my job, got blind drunk on my own and was close to giving up. I got through that tough time though and have come out stronger and a better person in the process. Ricky Gervais’ new show After Life is a stunning, raw and incredibly emotional series, one that taps into some seriously deep issues in a well written and comedic way.
Split across 6 episodes, After Life revolves around grieving husband Tony, whose life has come crashing down around him since his wife died unexpectedly of cancer. Angry at the world, Tony lives life on his terms; offending everyone he can and whipping up a whirlwind of chaos everywhere he goes in an attempt to stave off the pain he’s experiencing.
After introducing us to a range of colourful characters, Tony projects his pain and thoughts on the world through these people, discussing religion, suicide and life’s purpose in a dark, sarcastic manner. Now, in true Ricky Gervais style a lot of the jokes here revolve around observations he’s already made before and sticks close to that deadpan style of sarcasm he’s done in many other shows and films before.
However, the balance between comedy and heartfelt drama is really what helps set this one apart and for every laugh out loud moment, there’s an equally emotional and heartfelt one. Going into this one expecting an outright comedy, you’ll likely be left disappointed but as a dramedy, After Life works really well.
Most of the episodes follow a pretty rigid formula, revolving around repetitive sets and characters, helping to give a sense of progression through the series as Tony deals with his grief. Whether it be amusing jibes at Pat the Postman, doing drugs with Julian or discussing death with a fellow widower, these individual moments all add up to produce one beautifully written dark comedy.
There’s a great use of music throughout the series too and these songs, especially given the lyrical meaning, are impressively placed throughout the show. One moment early on sees Tony doing heroin and whilst on a high, Rocketman by Elton John plays. One particular segment of that song reflects, “I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife”, and it’s these tiny little moments that really add some shine to an already beautiful show.
Along with the decent writing is an all-star cast of British actors that do a great job fleshing out their personas. From the quiet genius of David Bradley through to the dry humour of Paul Kaye and Joe Wilkinson, everyone does a really good job bringing their respective characters to life.
At the end of the day, everyone struggles in life – some are just better at riding that storm than others. After Life is a beautifully written, feel good dramedy that showcases this perfectly. It’s a consistently moving, emotionally charged show about dealing with grief and sticking with the ones closest to you no matter what. It’s not the most original storyline but it is one that hit me on a really personal level. It may not be the laugh out loud comedy some may be expecting, but After Life transcends beyond that to deliver something incredibly profound and beautiful.
Verdict - 9/10