Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in director Amma Asante's period drama, which is based on the true story of Georgian Britain's first mixed-race aristocrat, Dido Belle.
On Film4: 23 Jan 9:00PM
Freddie, Bruce and Snork are youths trying with varying degrees of success to avoid inheriting their parents' small town mentality in a 1970s set coming-of-age tale about the limits of suburban life
Cemetery Junction is that rare creature, a British film from artists with a history of successful TV under their belts that dares to think outside the box - this is no half-baked sitcom pitch dumped unceremoniously on the big screen without so much as a decent cinematographer. This is a real film. As such, it's possible some audiences will leave surprised by what they have seen, but it's hard to imagine they will leave disappointed - Cemetery Junction is much too engaging an experience for that.
Forget 'The Office', 'Extras', and forget, even, the film's writer-directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant for a moment. At least, forget Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant as you know them from countless small screen appearances and Gervais' other film roles thus far.
'The Office' and 'Extras' are very fine pieces of television and nobody would want to dismiss them, but if you go in expecting a big screen version of that type of programme you will leave disappointed - and it will be your fault, because nothing about Cemetery Junction is promising you a similar experience. What would be the point of that?
Cemetery Junction is set in pretty-but-faceless Southern English suburbia. It's no sink estate, urban ghetto or ravaged former industrial town. The deprivation suffered here is a cultural poverty, a purblind lack of ambition, vision or creativity.
The only type of person in this town using words like 'vision' is the nasty boss (Ralph Fiennes, excellent) of the local life insurance company, and by vision he means the type of opportunistic salesmanship that spies new markets in fearful curtain-twitchers. He talks about making something of your life and by his own assessment of what that means, he has succeeded - he has a big car, a nice house and a loyal wife. Tragically, there are so few other role models around that young Freddie (Christian Cooke) believes that this is what he aspires to become. Better that than end up like his family.
If Freddie represents youthful ambition naively misdirected, his friend Bruce (Tom Hughes, smoking hot) is the type of disaffected youth more commonly seen in the Americana from which Cemetery Junction takes much of its inspiration. Bruce is the rebel without a cause, punching, snarling and pissing it all away, angry at his hapless father (a heartbreaking Francis Magee) because he hasn't yet figured out who he should really be angry with, or how to make his peace with his own fear of failure. Much easier to drink and shag his way around town, a big fish in a flatteringly small pond.
The trio is rounded out by gauche comic relief Snork (Jack Doolan), who gets the film's main laughs, including for a rousing rendition of a Slade number and a truly sui generis tattoo which for reasons I am at a loss to explain nearly made me wet myself with laughter. Perhaps because like all the best onscreen adolescent follies it was just stupid enough to be true.
An exhilarating film, Cemetery Junction takes the universal fear of failing to make the most of your life and locates it in 1970s working class England. It could easily be done for another country, century or social background without losing what is most essential here: the very human need to feel appreciated, fulfilled and challenged by your existence.
A gloriously filmed and stylishly cinematic ode to the dreams of youth and the will to escape the shackles that so relentlessly conspire to trap us in everything that is most limiting about our lives.
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Andrea Arnold's American Honey, starring Sasha Lane, triumphed at the British Independent Film Awards 2016 [caption id="attachment_5357" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sasha Lane in American Honey[/
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