“After Life,” an exceptionally British comedy, takes the genre to new heights

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Screen capture: This scene from "After Life" features Ricky Gervais and Penelope Wilton as Tony and Anne, respectively.

After Life” written and directed by Ricky Gervais, tells an all-to-familiar heartbreaking story. The series premiered on Netflix Friday, 8 March 2019. With Gervais in the lead role, “After Life” revolves around a bitter man, angry at the world by the untimely death of his wife, Lisa (Kerry Godliman). Tony lashes out at a world he feels is not worth living in.

Tony stubbornly clinging to his old ways. Even though the phrase “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten” defines Tony’s attitude towards life, this changes when he opens himself up open to a different way of being content.

This is more than the average redemption story. It’s a story about living life without your one true love, a story about acceptance and a story about compassion.

Gervais’ character is reminiscent of his real-life persona we have come to expect from the writer, director and actor. Since creating such cult classic television series as “The Office” and “Extras,” the Berkshire born entertainer has proven definitely candid when it comes to what he expresses. He says what he wants because that is who he is.

“After Life” promotional poster. Image Credit: IMDb

Mourning effects everyone differently. Not everyone can handle the death of a loved one. When we first meet Tony, it has been less than a month since Lisa died. In the opening scene, Tony is lying in bed watching a video his now late wife recorded for him in the event of her death. The video features a long list of instructions how to function in the world as a productive member of society. Lisa pleads with him not to wallow in his grief. Not surprising, Tony ignores every piece of advice Lisa gives him. Instead of taking his late wife’s advice seriously, Tony decides to go through life with a chip on his shoulder. His home and work life are a complete mess.

The love of his life gone forever. Without reservation for anyone’s feelings, Tony says whatever he wants. Tony’s attitude remains caustic for at least the first few episodes. Gervais’ fans must like his caustic attitude otherwise they would not be fans.

There is something that can be said for how all-consuming grief can be. It blinds us to how harsh we are to the people around us. This message becomes buried in Tony’s unpleasantness.

The nurse taking care of Tony’s father calls him out for his behaviour. “You’re like a troll on Twitter. Just because you’re all upset, means everyone else has to feel upset,” she says. “At first I thought, ‘I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt’ because I just assumed you were always having a bad day. But maybe it’s just because you’re a c***.”

This is the wake-up call Tony needs. From this point, the dynamic of the series shifts gears. Later in the series, a widower tells Tony there’s “no point feeling sorry for ourselves and making everyone else unhappy, too.” By this point, Tony has already turned that corner.

In addition to Gervais and Godliman, the series also stars Tom Basden, Tony Way, David Bradley, Penelope Wilton, and Ashley Jensen. Netflix has renewed the series for a second season. Season Two will be available for Netflix subscribers to enjoy sometime next year, 2020.