Britain’s Ricky Gervais, everyone’s feared “drunk uncle” who shuffles through family reunions or The Oscars with a pint in hand and an unholstered, whiplash wit, has churned out an engaging one-man show about grief and love and life for Netflix. It ran three seasons and we liked it.
If you’ve got the time and haven’t lost anyone close to you recently, give “After Life” a ride. Based in a picturesque English village it points its lens at recently bereaved local journalist Tony Johnson, saved from the brink of suicide by his beloved dog Brandy and chained to his job as a feature writer for the giveaway Tambury Gazette.
We are introduced to the source of Tony’s grief through a series of flashbacks featuring his ultra-patient wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman) and gradually peel away the layers of that relationship and Tony’s aversion to a new one – despite the presence of more-than-suitable village ladies.
Tony isn’t a very likable sort. He channels most of his affection through late-night video sessions with his departed wife and Brandy – the dog, not the drink, though it’s an anesthetic he prefers. Luckily for him, his job provides him with a steady stream of unhinged, often harmless but usually cosmically skewed personality types he can “poke, until they start thinking.” Meanwhile, during a series of country walks and graveside chats, Tony’s the one doing the thinking, reaching conclusions some may find connectable.
Gervais the writer draws on the talents of a stellar supporting cast, characters with deliciously drawn and vulnerable foibles that keep Tony’s acid cauldron wit on the bubble. And it is this interaction that moves After Life forward – or at least to its conclusion – with lessons offered along its rainbow story arc.
After Life isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of laughs but it’s not a standup comic’s busman’s holiday. It’s not easy. It’s not for those looking for quick escape and some pub talk. It is relentlessly human and thought provoking and familiar to those who have seen some of what life can dish out. Shows like After Life aren’t made that much anymore, and we have our doubts a show like this could be made in America. No matter what you may think of Gervais you’ll come away from this show feeling prodded – until you’ve done some serious thinking.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Stream it. The dialogue is fast-paced and often laced with f-bombs and c-splosions so if that bothers you you may want to steer clear.
Why We Liked It: Deep dive into the intricacies of grief… and love… and loneliness. Solid writing. Great supporting cast and good use of dog. Good “Mandolin Wind.” Belly Bubbling. Often brilliant.
Good Lines: “Stop drawing faces on the fruit and veg...”