Most filmgoers are lucky to stumble across a movie that guides us down paths unknown. Usually, however, we’re faced with something like John Crowley’s melodrama, in which the entire narrative can be mapped out within minutes. It’s a good bet from the get-go that socially awkward youngster Edward (Milner) will bond with Clarence (Caine), the new resident of the nursing home run by the boy’s parents. Sure, there’ll be banter-filled tension, but given that the cantankerous golden oldie was once a magician—the Amazing Clarence—while the lad is obsessed with the supernatural, and both are lonely souls, a close bond is all but assured. Perhaps the kid will help the widower get over his wife’s passing, and the elderly gent will teach Edward something about life. Might Clarence’s occasional memory lapses be a sign of dark things to come? Maybe...
Forget the maybes. The only mysteries here are why Crowley, who skirted stock conventions with ingenuity in Boy A (2007), can’t stop from delivering something so determinedly formulaic and why every one of Caine’s sublime moments is countermatched by truly cringeworthy turns. Uttered by both characters at various times, the film’s title is meant to evoke fears of a finite world. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear they were asking about the state of the theater.—David Fear
Opens Fri. Find showtimes.