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.