Ricky Gervais and Netflix’s latest dark comedy had us experiencing all kinds of emotions and occasionally in hysterics.
The 6-episode series follows the life of Tony (Ricky Gervais) after his wife dies from cancer. Tony loved his wife tremendously and now that she’s gone, he is struggling to find reason to get through the day. To take the edge of, he says and does what he wants and considers it to be a “superpower” because if it all gets too much, he can just kill himself.
As the series unfolds, Tony discovers that being able to say and do what you want isn’t really a superpower at all. His behavior is at first predictably rude and funny but eventually Gervais manages to genuinely shock us. In a particularly dark scene, he smokes heroin with a homeless person and then when the man tells him he would kill himself if he had the money, Tony hands over £60.
As well as being deliberately shocking, there are moments which are in fact deeply moving and tender. When Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms” plays while Tony hallucinates lying on his deceased wife’s lap, a tear or two is justified. The home videos of Tony and his wife are also effectively used to make the audience appreciate just how precious what he has lost is to him.
All the way through, Tony is painfully sad and ignores the care of those around him. When he meets a sad widow on a bench in a graveyard, the advice she dispenses makes him consider the possibility that there might just be life after loss. While the final episode may have been a little too cheesy, there is some genuinely profound wisdom shared in their encounters. After all, happiness is still happiness if it’s someone else’s.
Comedy highlights were the mundane and ridiculous news stories characters came up with to get in the local newspaper and Joe Wilkson as a postman named Pat. Rosin Conaty as a proud sex worker and kind woman is also a highlight and reveals a new side of Rosin as an actress.
Overall, After Life is depressing even by Ricky Gervais standards. At the same time, there are some positive messages to take away from the series and its awesome soundtrack, fantastic cast and genuinely sweet and funny moments make it worth a watch.