In ‘Cemetery Junction,’ a portrait of British life, warts and all

“It’s a town full of losers, we’re pulling out of here to win” is the line from Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ that Ricky Gervais says in the DVD extras was the inspiration for his and Stephen Merchant’s fine film Cemetery Junction. In the Washington Post, Jen Chaney has a good appreciation of the movie, unjustly not given a US theatrical run and just released on DVD.

“In the original, British version of TV’s “The Office,” co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant made life in the UK look like an eternally gritty, hilariously squirm-inducing slog. In “Cemetery Junction” — a coming-of-age drama the pair co-wrote and directed, and that debuts Tuesday on DVD ($24.96) and Blu-ray ($30.95) — they go in the opposite direction, bathing images of Reading, England circa 1973 in rays of abundant, improbably golden sunshine. It’s as if they’re making up for the bleakness of their television Slough by writing a motion-picture love letter to their native land, one punctuated with supporting turns from some of Britain’s finest actors — Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode and Emily Watson….

One nice thing about seeing “Cemetery Junction” on DVD is the opportunity to immediately view the film with the added context of the special features. The deleted scenes, making-of documentary and numerous featurettes give the audience a clearer sense of the vision behind the film. During an interview, Gervais and Merchant — the minds also responsible for TV’s “Extras” — say they intentionally veered away from the dismal visuals that tend to characterize British coming-of-age films about working class families, opting instead to capture the time and place through the tinted lens of nostalgia. And they emphasize that point again, multiple times, during an engaging commentary track, one of two featured on the release.

“The minutiae of human behavior is so much more exciting to me than a cast of a million Glorgons that come from the planet Wank,” Gervais says at one point during that track, explaining his affinity for taking on character studies like this one. Even if “Cemetery Junction” doesn’t entirely work, you leave the experience glad that Gervais and Merchant are still game to continue capturing that minutiae, whether they find it in the dysfunctional politics of a paper company, or in the everyday lives of three English men desperate to get out of their small town while they’re young and the rest of the 20th century is still ahead of them.”

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