Is Anybody There? (12A)
Time Out rating:
<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5Rate this
Time Out says
Tue Apr 28 2009The tender rapport between this film’s two leads, 76-year-old Michael Caine and 14-year-old Bill Milner, is reason enough to see this sweet-natured British indie that explores the not-very-sexy topics of death and ageing. Milner, who readers may remember as one of the two kids in ‘Son of Rambow’, is Edward, whose parents run an old people’s home near the sea. It looks like a retirement pad for thesps: there’s Leslie Phillips in the corner, making crude jokes; there’s Sylvia Syms, playing a grump; there’s Thelma Barlow, still looking like Mavis from ‘Coronation Street’. The year is 1987 and writer Peter Harness is exploring his experience of growing up in the ’80s in an environment in which blue rinses, Zimmer frames and incontinence were as common as Rubik’s Cubes and Roland Rat.
Then Caine appears: he’s Clarence, a former magician, bitter about ageing and initially dismissive of Edward’s childish ramblings about death and the after-life. You see, Edward isn’t reacting well to the sight of bodybags floating down the family stairlift and his parents are too busy to hold his hand and explain all things spiritual: his upbeat, well-meaning mum (Anne-Marie Duff) is juggling all sorts to keep things afloat; his dad (an underused David Morrissey) is in mid-life-crisis mode and drooling over the family’s teenage employee Tanya (Linzey Cocker) while sporting jumpers that would make Gyles Brandreth blush.
It turns out Edward needs Clarence as much as Clarence needs Edward: the older man becomes a surrogate father while the child allows Clarence to rediscover some of the wonder in life and face up to his demons. Caine is terrific in the role, physically convincing and able to communicate the fading of dreams and the onset of dementia with skill. Some of the more ensemble episodes of the film, especially those involving Edward’s parents, are less interesting and well-executed, but this remains further proof, after films like ‘Last Orders’, ‘Children of Men’ and even ‘The Dark Knight’, that late Caine can be a joy to watch.
Author: Dave Calhoun