Saturday, July 16, 2011


while it's too american compared to trainspotting, the humor and how the coming of age tale of three friends (bruce, snork and freddie) was meshed out made cemetery junction (written and directed by ricky gervais and stephen merchant) an enjoyable trip to 1970s smalltown britain. the 70s are completely foreign to me, with snippets of its glory days only learned from my family, movies and history books. while the philippines was busy trying to eject marcos out of malacanang, rural folks' aim of making it big in the big city was altogether a common theme across countries.

in cemetery junction, three young working class friends fritter time through joking, boozing, fighting and chasing girls. but freddie (christian cooke), with his aim of leaving his working class roots, soon found a job as an insurance agent. bruce (tom hughes) is content working in a factory, having a dysfunctional relationship with his alcoholic father and spending a lot of time in the local police station after several fistfights. snork (jack doolan) is happy waiting to take over as the train station's main announcer, while also holding back on any relationship with a girl in the local pub. freddie works for mr. kendrick (ralph fiennes), who's married to mrs. kendrick (emily watson). their daughter, julie (felicity jones) is engaged to mike ramsay (matthew goode), one of the topshots in the kendrick insurance empire. freddie and julie developed an interesting connection, while both struggle with own issues - freddie could not close an insurance deal, while julie could not pursue her aim of becoming a photographer and enjoy the swingin 70s due to the traditional role of women.

what works for this movie is the understated tone of the harshness of everyday life in a dreary rural town… of course, this would depend on your social class. the movie dealt with serious subjects as social class, collapse of family, ambition, regret, women's role in society and even economics. but all of these were discussed in restrained tempo, eschewed from melodrama of your typical pinoy movies. tom and his father clearly had issues to resolve but tom projected coolness and subtlety when finally learning of why his dad drinks. the choice of tom to stay behind reading and continue to live with his dad was moving but not dramatic, as one might expect from a typical hollywood film. after completely being dismissed as "just a wife and not a partner", one could immediately sense that mrs. kendrick would have her "standing up against her husband" scene. and she did. but she did so without theatrics, with the fine emily watson shunning over-the-top acting. of course, it was already suggested that julie would have "followed her heart" and leave reading with freddie. but this was tackled in an unassuming manner that anyone would root for freddie to win over mike.

it had the right mix of drama and comedy, had good pacing and was armed with great music. the overall energetic vibe of the 70s was carried through, thanks to the delightful trio of relative unknowns, christian cooke, tom hughes and jack doolan, as well as the support of established actors such as the very effective ralph fiennes and emily watson. it was funny and touching, ultimately saying that looking back to a bygone era should not be loaded with resentment.
cemetery junction is clearly an enjoyable feel good movie. be young, be free and be somebody!

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