It's 1973 and best pals Freddie (Cooke), Bruce (Hughes) and Snork (Doolan) are the lads to go looking for if there's been any mischief around their sleepy Berkshire hometown. Living for Saturday nights and the four Bs (booze, birds, brawls and bad language), the trio invariably end up in the holding tank, laughing about the night before with Sergeant Davis (Speirs) - and then waiting another week to do it all again.
The question is do Freddie, Bruce and Snork want this Saturday night to last for the next 15 years, and have any of them got the guts to catch the train out of Cemetery Junction for good?
Freddie may have taken half a step forward by leaving the factory where he worked with his dad Len (Gervais) for a 'proper' job at the Vigilant Life Insurance Company, but he still can't see beyond a house down the road from his parents, even though his boss' daughter Julie (Jones) is trying to show him that the world is his oyster. Hot-headed hardman Bruce spends even more time than Freddie talking about getting but doesn't have the confidence to go it alone. And Snork, well, he's the figure of fun who'll fall in with whatever the other two decide for him. The lads' reservations with Sergeant Davies, it seems, don't need to be cancelled for a good while yet.
While there's been a bit of ho-humming about Gervais' recent US movie outings 'The Invention of Lying' and 'Ghost Town', he has more to offer back on home turf with his 'Extras'/'The Office' co-creator Merchant. 'Cemetery Junction' is one of those small films that many will watch again on TV whenever it's on - the laughs are good and what Gervais and Merchant say about growing up rings very true.
The film draws its humour and poignancy from the idea that "You can't put an old head on young shoulders" and, like 'Saturday Night Fever' and 'Quadrophenia' before it, the horror here for the young people is living the lives of their parents. They become obsessed with the 'great escape' and whether it's possible, even though, as one them says, there's a train leaving Cemetery Junction every hour.
Although Gervais appears on the posters for 'Cemetery Junction', he's only in a few scenes, but don't let that put you off: the characters he and Merchant have created are strong and the actors they have chosen to play them are spot-on. Freddie, Bruce, Snork and Julie are all interesting enough that the film could've focussed on just one of them and the supporting cast, which includes Fiennes as Terry's local-boy-made-good boss, Watson as his long-suffering wife, Speirs as the genial copper and Magee as Bruce's alcoholic father are a big part of the best scenes.
If you grew up watching British TV dramas and sitcoms, the memories will come flooding back watching this. There are more smiles than tears here but like Gervais and Merchant's best moments there's plenty about race, sex, class and the drudgery of work, too. You leave 'Cemetery Junction' thinking that the duo are moving towards a story where they play it straight from start to finish - and this film says that it will be worth seeing.