After Life is the Warm Embrace we all Need Right Now
'The dream is to come back in my next life as a dog' I said to the elderly gentleman as he walked his cute pup in the park. 'Knowing my luck, I'll come back as me' he joked. 'Haha, you'll have to do the whole damn thing all over again', I laughed. We parted ways as he headed home to 'have a coffee and fix the sodding garden gate'. What I love about dog walking is the small clips of conversation you have with strangers. The quotes and comments on every day life are quite the comfort for any sort of day. A grounding reminder that we all go through life the best we can, as confused and disillusioned as the next person. There is no better show on our screens to exemplify this, than Ricky Gervais' After Life. His award winning, much adored Netflix series is without question, the most beautiful work of his career. I doubt there is any human who can't find this show relatable. In After Life, Gervais has created what feels like a tight hug in television form, which both reassures and resonates with us all.
After Life's narrative arc is that of grief, of being widowed, but Gervais' lead Tony, represents to me, human existence. Depression, sadness, fear, loss, and the universal sentiment of; 'Is This It?'.
After Life cleverly captures the pedestrian realities of life. Like that feeling when you're sat in a doctors waiting room under florescent lights, feeling vulnerable and unsure of what is ahead. This show reminds us that we all feel the same WTF-ness as each other. The mundaneness, the routine, the repetition of everyday life. It's refreshing to see such realness. These days we're constantly exposed to short highlight reels of other peoples lives. You can end up feeling left out and unaccomplished if your own day didn't include paragliding in front of a sunset, to the soundtrack of Coldplay.
As the episodes progress, we watch Tony try and shift from suicidal and cynical, to hopeful and happier. You can't help but become his support through the screen, willing him to find a way to see the loveliness of life. Perhaps, by cheering him on, we learn to become our own cheerleader too. This show for me is almost like a lesson on how to overcome depression and despair. Tony's regular graveyard bench chats with widow Anne, played by the brilliant Penelope Wilton, sees her telling him to find something which 'makes you want to get up in the morning'. When filled with grief or depression this can be extremely hard. We have to try though, to find something which gives our lives hope and meaning.
Every character is endearing, and each one brings wonderful wit. We're shown the quirks of being human in all our fragile, lonely and confused states. I've uttered the same words as Kath, played by Diane Morgan, on so many occasions; 'I can't be bothered anymore, I mean what's the point eh?' So many lines feel as though they came out of my mouth, it's a consoling acknowledgment that I'm not ever alone in these feelings. After Life proves the importance of holding memories close, and the value of companionship not only with fellow people, but with animals too. These are things which make life better.
After Life is a powerful, gentle reminder that human existence is a collective experience and we're all on the merry-go-round together. In the words of character Anne; 'You're human, nothing really makes sense'. Gervais was doing us all a great gesture when he wrote After Life. Much like life itself; it will make you laugh out loud, cry, and sigh in acceptance that yes, actually, this is it, but that, is good enough.
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