You’ve probably already seen a ton of reviews from critics and fans alike raving about Ricky Gervais’ new Netflix show After Life. It premiered on the streaming platform earlier this month and with only 6 episodes, it’s an easy weekend binge. I’ve watched it slow and steady and whilst there’s little to fault in the show, it took me until the finale to really comprehend what a wonderful show this really is.
After Life follows widower Tony (as played by Gervais) through his life after the loss of his wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman). He’s decided he wants to kill himself, but when he realises the dog needs feeding, decides against it. Instead he chooses to live his life with a new found superpower, not caring about anything and doing and saying exactly what he wants, when he feels like it.
I’ve been a slow burn when it comes to being a Gervais fan, I avoid cringe humour so The Office and Extras were out, but his choice of film roles interested me, and his twitter presence is actually what turned me. His opinions on the after life and animal welfare spark curiosity and debate, and after being lucky enough see him live last year, the idea of him doing a show centered around afterlife sparked interest. As it turns out, After Life doesn’t focus on what happens when we die, rather, what happens to those we leave behind.
The show so many wonderful things going for it, but they also make it a tough and tiring watch. Tony is miserable and unhappy, he’s a nasty person who at times plays hero, saying what all want to but are to polite to, but he’s also the villain. He’s cruel to his co-workers and flippant of other people’s successes, he brutally honest despite the concern it causes his loved ones and he can’t see beyond his own agony. Gervais’ performance is honest and admirable, different to what many of his fans may be used to seeing. Tony is a broken man, his heart pretends to be cold, but as every episode opens with video messages from his late wife, we see the torment and cruel loss in his eyes.
It is the supporting cast that are left to carry the humour, and the varied bunch do a great job, but my MVP’s go to new co-worker Sandy as played by Mandeep Dhillon and fellow widower Anne (Penelope Wilton). Towards the end of the season they give Tony some caring but honest tough love. They are both new to his life, having only met him since his loss, and can truly see the hurt and kindness underneath the angry facade those that know him are letting him get away with, and this is where the show really finds itself. The final episode sees Tony finally facing not only his loss, his devastation and his betrayal at the world for taking Lisa away from him, but also the consequences of his actions.
The show is very honest about the depression Tony is living with, but it’s finale also shows the hope that is so needed to combat mental health. It’s hard to choose happiness, and Tony chose sorrow and anger. Whilst everyone around you may look like they’re doing amazing, and their happiness is only there to remind you of how unhappy you are and what you have lost or not yet found, the final episode reminds us that everyone has demons, troubles and worries. It takes a second loss for Tony to learn that whilst doing good and sharing happiness, gratefulness, is the harder choice, it is the right choice. Ann sums it up perfectly.
Happiness is amazing. So amazing it doesn’t matter if its yours or someone else’s.
Watching Tony feel again, go out of his way to care and love and worry about those in his life, to look past his loss and feel concern for those around him feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s ok to hurt. It’s ok to feel alone and abandoned. But Anne reminds Tony, and us
You may not like living much, but you make the world a better place.
May we all find an Anne in our lives, and cherish the Anne’s we do have.
After Life is currently streaming on Netflix worldwide.