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Katherine Bennett reviews Derek

Katherine Bennett reviews Derek 1Katherine Bennett reviews Derek 2

 

Whenever a new Woody Allen film is released I make a point of watching it. I like his style.  I know what to expect and more often than not I like what I see.  Sometimes though I am disappointed.  And so it is with Ricky Gervais.  Gervais is Gervais; everything he does will be Gervais-esque, which to me means that even the disappointing stuff will have accurately observed prosaic moments and the good stuff, will be chock-full of them.

In a state of suspended awareness of Life’s Too Short I settled in to watch Derek.

For the first few minutes I was laughing harder at @iamjamesward tweet (“In Derek, Ricky Gervais truly shows his versatility as an actor. He can jut his lower jaw out”) than at anything I had seen on screen.  I then laughed a bit at Derek’s narration whilst watching a hamster on a piano and though my husband chuckled a few more times, I didn’t laugh again.  But I did cry. 

After a first half which establishes the character of Derek as, what my Irish granny would have described ambiguously as “an innocent”, Gervais, in the second half presents his innocent with loss and this, he does brilliantly.

Having spent time around the dying and been present at the moment of death I felt that Gervais captured the juxtaposition between absent-mindedly arriving to spend time with somebody and the alert realisation that they no longer exist, with astonishing tenderness.  The stillness of the scene in which Derek sat with the corpse, placing her limp hand on his own head was made all the more poignant by the knowledge that Derek couldn’t move from that place to fold into the arms of a lover or cuddle his own children for comfort.

I read one review of Derek, pejoratively describing Gervais as an emotional manipulator, thus explaining his popularity in North America (where we all know those fools fall for anything schmaltzy).  Well I fell too; and I enjoyed the fall.  It is my emotions that I expect and hope to be manipulated by fiction; if I am left unmoved then the artwork has failed as far as I am concerned.

Derek is on Thursdays, 10.00pm Channel 4.

Katherine Bennett is a comic and performer, pictured top.

 

Pictured bottom:  Ricky Gervais as Derek with Kerry Godliman as Hannah.

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