Forty-something year old moviephile, willing to give any cinematic genre and/or production a view, despite the high or low production value.
What's It All About?
Tony Johnson is clinically depressed after his wife passes away from breast cancer. Even though it has been months since she has died, and other people in her life have moved on and accepted this fact, Tony most definitely has not. Along with brooding in bed watching his wife's video to him (in which she tells him to do exactly the opposite of what he is currently doing), drinking far too much alcohol, and feeding his dog, he manages to find some time to go into work at the local newspaper where he is the head of feature writing.
Work provides him no joy, as he is belligerent and derisive toward his colleagues, all of whom seem to put up with his less than polite way of acting. He doesn't necessarily need to worry about being fired from the job, as his brother in law runs the paper, and is a complete pushover when it comes to anything dealing with confrontation with other humans.
Tony begins to let all of the pent up sadness and rage at the world vent out of him in a stream of rude actions and comments he begins making to everyone he meets, until that is when he meets a widow named Anne visiting her late husband in the neighboring grave to his wife's. After a few encounters, they seem to be getting closer in friendship, Anne giving him advice on living without a spouse, Tony making slightly snarky remarks back. It begins to make a chink in the armor that Tony has put up, defending himself against the world.
He also befriends a drug addict and a sex worker, both of whom at one point or another find themselves in Tony's home. The addict is supplying Tony with minor amounts of heroin, which Tony is using to blank out the world, and maybe, just maybe, overdose and end his life. The sex worker, Daphne aka Roxy, comes over initially to clean Tony's dishes, and becomes a pro bono housekeeper for Tony, sprucing the place up for him, much to his astonishment.
Tony attempted to cut his wrists after his wife's passing, which was stopped when their dog came into the bathroom and stared at him, prompting him to reconsider his actions as the dog "needed someone to feed it". The suicidal tendencies of Tony are mentioned often by himself and those around him, though other than the dabbling in heroin, there is no other overt attempts made.
After all of his bitterness and snarky rudeness, Tony has the briefest change of heart and takes to thanking those people around him that have kept him alive and put with him, perhaps starting a new outlook that can continue into a new season.
So What Do I Think?
A dark comedy for the current age.
I found that the comedy in After Life was so subtle and spot on, especially when Tony begins mentioning the small banalities he is encumbered with on his interviews with the local populace of the city. Those interviews, by the way, are the kind of 'features' that only a small town of a few hundred people could possibly want to read, as they are, for the most part, both ridiculous in nature and have nothing to hook readers, making the assignment for Tony that much more idiotic.
The supporting characters around Tony were well fleshed out. His photographer, Lenny, is constantly eating on the job, a fact which Tony is more than happy to point out to others and even make a running commentary in real time as it is happening. The advertising employee, Kath, is about as close to a nemesis as one can get in this show, showing derision to Tony and throwing as much snark back at him as he gives her. The new employee on the paper, Sandy, is assigned to Tony so he can show her the ropes on how the features department at the paper is run. I would have liked to see more interaction between Tony and this girl, as she is so chipper and eager to learn, and Tony as the curmudgeon, could have great rapport with her in the long run.
The series takes a little turn into the bleakness of life and the true horror of drug addiction, leading to a moment that was both heartwarming and tragic at the same time. This is what makes this show unique. It is a comedy, and a very dark one at that, but it has no qualms and makes no excuses for what happens. This could only have been shown on Netflix, as there would be no network in the US that would have the guts to put something so real on air in fear of reprisals. I recommend the show to all, even those that aren't keen on Ricky Gervais, as the character of Tony could very well remind you of someone you know and give a window into what their world just might be like. I can't wait to see where season 2 goes and hope that it is delivered soon.