Another week and another coming of age tale, but this one is set in the UK of 1973 and is fresh, funny and charming. Again it features young souls finding their identities and rebelling against their elders but it's all done in a sweetly agreeable way. The adults take a back seat but are an effective buttress for the leads – three lads bored with their small town existences.
Freddie (Cooke) doesn't want to follow in his father's footsteps as a welder and gets a job selling insurance door to door. He is beguiled by the wealth of his boss Fiennes, whose palatial home is valued at £42,000 and is taken under the wing of Goode, the company's best salesman. He also meets old schoolfriend Julie (Jones) again and develops strong feelings for her. She is the daughter of Fiennes and is going out with Goode, who doesn't appreciate her budding photography skills and brushes aside her professional ambitions.
Meanwhile his pal Bruce (Hughes), who lives at home with his unhappy father, is constantly getting into fights and into scrapes with the law, regularly being thrown into the cells. His aggression masks the lack of love he feels from his mother going off with another man.
Their cohort Snork (Doolan), who works at the local train station, is socially inept and a constant embarrassment. The three of them are always clowning around and getting into trouble but Freddie wants to make something of his life – much to the disgust of the other two. He is initially transfixed by the rich trappings he could aspire to but Julie opens his eyes to much bigger pastures to savour.
All of this is wrapped up in a nostalgic but not overdone setting – though some classic '70s songs get an airing. The leads are all believable and their dilemmas, though hardly original, are portrayed with amiable flair. It also looks good - there's no sense that this likeable effort would be more suited to the telly. The widescreen cinematography has a nicely bright sheen to it.The elder actors all acquit themselves well, with Emily Watson, as Julie's mother, particularly effective at portraying her character's sad lifestyle with relatively little dialogue. A subtle glance, a wayward look are all that's needed to convey her stifling life where her abilities are ignored. Gervais is funny as Freddie's father, his constant battling with his mum (Reid) providing the movie with its funniest moments. Fiennes is convincingly unsympathetic but it's hardly a stretch for him – he can play this kind of role in his sleep. It ends on a happily optimistic note and is in all a lovely movie. No great shakes but solidly done, engaging and satisfying. Give it a go.
EXTRAS ★★★ There are two audio commentaries - the first is with Gervais and Merchant, and is as funny as you'd expect; the other is with lead actors Cooke, Hughs and Doolan. Then there are a few deleted scenes and a gag reel. Plus six featurettes: The Directors: A Conversation with Gervais and Merchant; The Lads Look Back: The Stars Discuss Cemetery Junction; Seventies Style: Production & Costume Design; and three Production Featurettes.