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Is Anybody There?
UKScreen Rating:

Is Anybody There? – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

In a northern seaside resort, in 1987, young Edward (Milner) shares his home with a dozen elderly widows and widowers; his parents (Morrissey and Duff) have turned the house into an old-age care home.
The boy is squeezed into the smallest room in the house – lonely and frustrated.
To give his life some meaning, he tries to find out if there’s life after death by dashing into the rooms of recently deceased residents with a tape-recorder, to see if he can pick up any post-mortem cries.
He doesn’t get the answers he seeks from the dead – but from the still-living long-retired former illusionist Clarence (Caine), cantankerous widower who doesn’t want to be in the home, but is given no choice by the local social services.
Here begins the archetypal, cross-generational “unlikely” friendship that settles Clarence in his dying days and inspires Edward to blossom.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Every couple of years or so comes a film in which a child forms one of these “unlikely friendships” with someone old enough to be their great-grandparent – Venus is perhaps the most recent of note – Driving Lessons, before that, was considerably less impressive.
In these films, the generation gap offers much to both participants – it makes the young feel older and the old feel younger – offering experience to the children and breathing life back into the elderly.
Top notch performances from both Caine and Milner bring a fairly run-of-the-mill story to life. Caine’s gradual decay is so heart-breakingly convincing that some of his own family members have refused to watch the film. And after recent leading roles in Son of Rambow and Skellig, Milner’s touching voyage of discovery firmly sets him up as one of the child-stars of the moment.
Casting some of the greatest living British actors (including Phillips and Syms) as the residents seems a bit of a waste – perhaps a cheeky way to give a standard story the gravitas it doesn’t really deserve – and throwing in marital difficulties for Edward’s parents almost gets in the way of the relationship we’re really interested in – except that it does, eventually, mirror Caine’s own memories.
While most of the story would sit comfortably on a small screen on a Sunday afternoon – claustrophobic, soap-opera-style bickering in the enclosed space of an old-age home – a few moments – such as a road-trip and a magic show – serve to broaden the canvas and help it warrant a big-screen outing.

opens nationwide 1st May 2009

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