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Ricky Gervais follows up Life’s Too Short with a show about a simple, vulnerable man working in an old people’s home. Brave, but this isn’t the moment where Gervais is consumed by political incorrectness once and for all: Derek is nearly a brilliant reinvention.
You’d have to try hard to read Gervais’s portrayal of slow, sweet Derek as mockery, and the sad ending is up there with David Brent’s “Don’t make me redundant” meltdown. Kerry Godliman shines in a supporting role as Hannah, the care worker who is Derek’s best friend and is thwarted, selfless, burningly sad but endlessly compassionate – every moment she is on screen is sigh-inducing magic.
But Derek falters because Gervais, who writes and directs without Stephen Merchant, is too reliant on tropes from his previous work. The action is shot as a documentary about the characters, a device that doesn't add much and highlights the occasional, inappropriate similarity between Derek and Gervais's other creations. Casting Karl Pilkington as another of Derek's colleagues also breaks the spell, and sometimes the mix of slapstick and sensitive drama is uncomfortable.
Ricky Gervais writes, directs and stars in this one-off comedy drama about a group of people on society's margins. Derek works in a retirement home with his landlord Dougie. He adores animals, Rolf Harris and TV, but his main hobby is autograph-hunting. With Kerry Godliman and Karl Pilkington in his debut acting role.
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