This is a very personal review. I can’t believe I’m even posting it, but here it is.
What a brilliant show! I just finished the last episode – there’s only six half-hour ones, thank you, British television! So I’m full of the feels, and this is not going to be very coherent. Which, I figure, is perfect for a show like this.
Ricky Gervais continues to surprise me. I know that he’s very funny, with his own brand of humor that many people find offensive, but I like most of his stuff. And I think of him as a comedian – both as an actor and a writer/director. So every time he does something serious and thoughtful, I am amazed at the level of depth, humility and kindness he brings to his creations.
“After Life” is the story of a man who just lost his beloved wife, and with her, the will to live. He probably would have killed himself immediately, if he didn’t have a dog to take care of. So he manages to get out of bed every day, and lead an existence devoid of any shred of happiness or hope. He titters on the brink of death, yet doesn’t cross the line; he manages to anger, but not completely alienate those closest to him. People annoy him, probably because they go on living despite the fact that his world has ended. Worst of all, he claims to not care about his own life to the point where he deliberately puts himself in harm’s way, yet the only people that he’s hurting by his behavior are the people who still care about him.
I recently lost the person that I loved most in this world, and who loved me the most, and this show displayed so precisely all the feelings that I’ve been going through. All the terrible feelings and thoughts that you don’t share with anyone, because they are too dark to put into words. I can safely say that I’ve gone through the lows that Tony has gone through, and I didn’t even have a dog or a cat to pull me from the threshold. I have my best friend of almost 30 years, who lives on the other side of the world, and talks to me everyday through the wonders of modern technology. And the thought of something bad happening to me and her not knowing about it, is really the only thing that kept me from doing something terrible.
I can’t believe I just wrote that. And I can’t believe that I’m going to post it, but what good is a personal blog if you can’t share personal feelings on it? And what good are those feelings if you can’t share them, in the hope that, if nothing else, sharing those feelings can let someone else know that they’re not the only ones going through something so awful.
That’s exactly what Gervais did with this show – he not only showed those who grieve that they’re not alone, but that it’s okay to feel like you’re already dead. Because you’re not really, it’s only a feeling, and that feeling will fade away over time.
“After Life” has many precise quotes about life, death and the impact that people have on the world and the people around them. My favorite one has got to be this exchange between Tony and a widow that he talks to at the cemetery:
Tony: When you’re a good person, doing things you want to do is the same as doing good.
Widow: And you’re a good person, and I’d really rather you didn’t kill yourself. Because that would be a waste. You may not like living much, but you made the world a better place. And don’t give up because then they’ve won.After Life, season 1