The new Netflix series After Life is essentially a Ricky Gervais stand-up in the form of a fictional story. (Note: this isn’t a bad thing.) For any Gervais fan out there, he is known to be a narcissistic, brutally-honest comedian. Both on and off-screen. And this translates perfectly into After Life’s anti-hero Tony- a grieving middle-aged man journalist has recently lost his wife to cancer. In response to his wife’s passing, Tony decides to do and say whatever he wants, regardless of the consequences, knowing he “always has suicide to fall back on”.
After Life is a typical British mini-series, with its dark humour and observational comedy littering the narrative in awkward moments. The six-part story is standard in a formula, following Tony’s spiral into depression but with the ultimate realization that love will always prevail. It’s a bitter-sweet watch- full of dry sarcasm and wit- that all ties up neatly in the end. Predictable, sure. But not necessarily in a negative way. Despite Tony’s utter selfishness, we can’t help but want a happy ending for him. Even if it is cliché.
Gervais is evidently the writer and director of After Life, drawing parallels with his other work. We see the moral message to do good (despite not having to) from The Invention of Lying (2009); the opinionated jokes on religion and obesity from stand-ups like Ricky Gervais: Humanity (2018) and the cringy moments from The Office (2001) all worked into one. These being Gervais’s signature tropes. His personality seeps through the story’s conventionality to make it spark with humour. What could have easily been a benign, everyday TV show is given a zesty spirit by Gervais. Mercilessness honest, but overall heart-warming.