Set in 1980s seaside England, this is the story of Edward, an unusual ten year old boy growing up in an old peoples home run by his parents. Whilst his mother struggles to keep the family business afloat, and his father copes with the onset of mid-life crisis, Edward is busy tape-recording the elderly residents to try and discover what happens when they die. Increasingly obsessed with ghosts and the afterlife, Edwards is a rather lonely existence until he meets Clarence, the latest recruit to the home, a retired magician with a liberating streak of anarchy. Is There Anybody There? tells the story of this odd couple - a boy and an old man - facing life together, with Edward learning to live in the moment and Clarence coming to terms with the past.
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This movie reflects on what's been going on in my heart for a while -interaction of the generation which has been passing away and our(grand) kids. What always irritated me was a culture which promotes an image of youngand restless and, at the same time, discarding those who brought themup.I never believed a convenient wisdom that the elders are morecomfortable in the retirement homes, or in the surrounding of theirown. There is Baywatch on wide screen HDTVs, while retirees areconveniently shoved away behind the "active adults" curtains!
This review is from: Is Anybody There? (DVD) It's unfortunate that this film didn't succeed entirely in providing the viewer with something concrete to walk away with. It does have some great things going for it, like the always likable Michael Caine and the boy's portrayal of someone preoccupied with what death is really all about, but it's as if the director and writers decided to focus all their energy on those two things rather than exploring further the true moral of the story. One example of this beaten to death (no pun intended) premise is the fact that this boy throughout the film is witness to many deaths as a result of his mother and father running a sort of hospice for elderly people with nowhere else to go. It's easy for the viewer to extrapolate further on their own after seeing one such instance, making it laborious and unnecessary to continue showing us further examples. And does it REALLY have to take an 18 year old girl to make an impact on a dying marriage because the husband is infatuated by his past she reminds him of?Since Caine's character of a retired magician wasn't fully explored, there is only a glimpse of the kind of magic he could have used to inspire joy of living. It's a completely dropped ball and is kind of disheartening. The only reason I am giving this movie 3 stars at all is simply because of three extremely powerful and realistically emotional scenes that are some of the best acting of Michael Caine's wonderful and varied career. There is also a stellar moment for the boy which I will not spoil here. Suffice to say, it, and the Caine miraculous moments do a great deal to propel this otherwise disappointing, flat movie into something much more enjoyable, and heartbreaking.
The story centered around death and the possibility of some mythical afterlife. End of story! The story line was very slow, lacked "snap" to grab your attention and never really stated its purpose. The main flaw I found, for me perhaps, was being a BBC production I could not understand MUCH OF THE LANGUAGE. I was in England while in the USAF and the heavy accent was more in the poor areas and this move had much of that. IT WAS CLEARLY AIMED for a British audience. While in Britain it was common to hear the United States and Britain are two countries separated by a common language. Like Benny Hill's comedy, which I loved, to much content was lost by not clearly understanding 20% of what was said.
Nursing homes and death aren't generally happy themes, but Is Anybody There? works because it revolves around the odd friendship of a young boy (Bill Milner) and an elderly magician (Michael Caine). I've always known Michael Caine was a great actor, but he blew me away in Is Anybody There?. He was obviously a man frustrated by his mind, too full of life to give in but to old to have any choice. Milner was a nice surprise - I thought he held his own admirably alongside Caine. The plot and characters all seem too real. I could relate to and sympathize with their emotional struggles. I particularly like Michael Caine's line that "Being a person is a pain in the ass." Much better to be a badger! This was easily the most emotionally powerful film I've seen in a while.
This disappointing film about the unlikely friendship between a boy andan old man is ultimately disappointing precisely because it is not sounlikely; at least, it feels to be following in a well-worn dramaticrut. The tone is uneven, trying at times for poignancy and at others,playing for sitcom-style laughs. What's interesting in a way is that itfeels like a period story: it's set in the 1980s, but has something ofthe same feel to its construction as dramas usually set in an earlierperiod, with their carefully recreated portraits of times lessaffluent; I must be growing old to get the same vibes off a story setin a past that I remember. But you don't say anything profound aboutthe 80s by giving one of your characters a mullet haircut, and overall,there's an absence of intensity here, just a collection of set piecescenes that don't really hang together.
I heard this film was moving so I prepared myself for some spillage.Within ten minutes, I was teary - not hose-pipe teary - but I becameaware that the tap of emotion was being slowly turned on by the gentleyet persistent hand of pathos. It was during the second scene, whenMichael Caine's eyes spewed forth the wretchedness of despair like anurn pours forth water, that I realised that this performance was Caineat his most able; I fumbled for my hanky and decided to ignore theprickle of anguish just for the privilege of seeing his performance.If Michael Caine was a piece of jewellery, he would be a 24-carat-goldantique ring encrusted with rubies, diamonds, sapphires and emeralds;each element perfectly contrasting with its neighbour; a unique mixtureof the most precious and luminous stones; never losing their appeal yetprobably taken a bit for granted; and only really appreciated by few.In this role, the subtle yet overwhelming brilliance of Caine'sportrayal of a man suffering with dementia allows all the dimensions ofhis talent to shine. This film is the jeweller and his cloth, and Caineis the multi-talented gemstone, in all his mournful glory, at the heartof it.There's no denying that the story is grim. The characters are sad;there is death, decay and dementia in equal measure. It is a bleak yetcompelling landscape. The background to the landscape is equallydreary. It's the 80s in an unremarkable backwater outside Hull; theweather is dull; 90 per cent of the film is set in an old people'shome; our protagonist has dementia; and his best friend is obsessedwith the afterlife (to the extent of recording the dying wheezes of theclients). Not really a crowd pleaser, eh? But believe it or not, thisfilm has a lot of humour running through it. Okay, so it's blacker thanNewgate's knocker but it's there in spades. Caine's best mate, Edward,a 10-year-old oddball is as compelling to watch as His Majesty as hishose-pipe gets turned on more than once, and very effectively indeed.He sensitively portrays a maudlin misfit not that dissimilar to thetalent bud, Nicholas Hoult's Marcus in 'About a Boy'.This film is a really great example of British film-making at itsfinest - a good script and fine talent - nothing more nothing less. Itis also a great reminder that a low budget does not mean you have tocompromise on enjoyment. With this film, you get two superb beacons oflight radiating out from a good support cast and a true-to-life storyabout the reality of old age and all the regret that can accompany it.Powerful stuff.
Probably one of the lowest activity films this year on Blu that ended up looking this pristine. Michael Caine's performance was outstanding from beginning to end, but unfortunately he is not in every scene.The story follows a young boy as he deals with his life of living at a retirement home in the 1980s UK (that his parents manage for income). I had to have subtitles on as the accents and slang were unintelligible throughout. Caine plays a retired magician and self appointed resident to this home who inevitably befriends this young loner. Over the course of the film these two unlikely characters impart upon each other their little nuances and knowledge of life. Extremely slow moving at times and unlikely in others, what makes this movie tangible is the believability of Caine's borderline senility meets second chance in a dead end home role.The Blu clarity is outstanding. I even paused it in the most of unlikely places and the line definition was ideal for the scenes. Even in the near dark basement scene there was no pixelation or blur. The DTS was perfect, and the subliminal/background noises of the old folks home played through no matter what part of the house the scene was taking place. The only supplement was made up of a few forgettable deleted scenes. Not a mainstream appeal film by any means, but the performances were believable by all involved. The Blu sells itself but in an unlikely film of sorts. Four for the Blu and the story.
This is a truly awful film. Caine spits and gurns his way through thefilm as though he is doing facial exercises but in his defence thescript is so poor that there is little else he can do but chew it upand spit it out with a look of complete boredom on his face. The linesare thrown around like ad-men's ideas and the odd witty line is sopainfully contrived that it practically has a party popper attached toit. The characters are so thin that they rival the elderly resident'sskin for transparency and the shovel loaded with emotional reaction isso heavy that it shows every time the film picks it up.Leslie Phillips is grotesquely patronised by this film and his manyesteemed acting colleagues left to wither in front of our eyes into anembarrassing dirge. Sadly, it is the rest home from hell for theaudience.The only thing the film delivers is how dead magic can be in the handsof an inept magician. Save the old actors... don't go!
This review is from: Is Anybody There? (DVD) Excellent movie, a few twists and turns, I played 'Mavis', would recommend this movie, 10/10 spend all afternoon chatting to Michael whilst I was on set with him
Set in the 1980s seaside England, this film can be a greatcoming-of-age story with authenticity and may give a sense of nostalgiafor some.Bill Milner plays 10-year-old Edward, who is a curious child full ofquestions about ghosts and death. This story is about Edward'schildhood in a old people's home run by his parents. As the storydevelops, Edward develops a special bond with Clarence, played by theamazing Michael Caine.The start of the movie gives us a nice description of Edward's life andintroduces us to a lot of characters in the house. The ghost huntingparts make the film a bit far-stretched from its theme but the filmsgets a lot better later. We get to know Clarence more, and we can seehis life portrayed by Michale Caine's outstanding performance. Caine'sacting is a great strength of the film, and it totally brings outClarence's character to the audience. Milner also does a good jobacting a kid full of curiosity and inner kindness. Clarence has a hugeregret in his life. It is about his wife. We can see Edward's kindnessas he tries to help him heal that wound in his heart.This film is an invaluable lesson about life and death. The bond ayoung kid and an old man share can be very special. As the scenes moveon, Edward is seen to grow and learn a lot of things from Clarence. Itis incredible to see that this film succeeds in displaying that qualityof life experience. The young have a lot to learn from the old who havemuch more experience in their life. The other way around, old peoplewho are sometimes not their old self anymore can often use that energyfrom the young.This film covers a lot of things and I am sure different people canlearn different things from it. Anyway, people looking for an excitingdrama is not going to like this. But if you are looking for is aninspiring drama that gives you something to think about, this is a goodchoice for you. For me, Caine's performance alone is enough to make thetime worthwhile.
I found it really hard to follow in some parts(but I usually find most forein films like that)a reason to ask myself..what is it they're trying to get at,even if I seem to understand what it was about. It had it's humorous moments..but quite serious for the most part on How Michael Cane's character tries to cope with life when gettting older.
Michael Caine is very believable but this movie was quite slow at times. Fairly believable and good dialog between the character. This is one of those movies that many will like a lot and a few won't get into. I am on the line because of the slow time in the middle.
What a pure delight this film was.Maybe its because I also grew up in the 80's (albeit not in an oldfolks home) that the twinge of nostalgia attached to this film drew mein more than others. The decor was instantly recognisable andreminiscent of my grandparents house! I am a stereotypical British Michael Caine fan so I am unashamedlybiased but all that considered I genuinely believe this to be one ofhis shinning moments.The script was well structured & the direction natural - I believed inthose characters, in fact I almost felt like I might have met some ofthem a long time ago.Funny, touching, charming and yes most definitely a bit sad but sad inthe nicest and most uplifting way possible.Was this a comedy, was it a drama??? I'm not sure, what I am sure aboutis that there aren't enough films like this.If you like run of the mill Hollywood films you wont like this Â if youlike films with a touch of humanity that make you think a little, gosee it - trust me.
This review is from: Is Anybody There? (DVD) I first saw Is Anbody There? at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke Va. I decided to go and see the movie because I have an interest in magic. The movie does not have much in the way of conjuring in the plot. However, the plot and the characters had vital interest for me. I could relate to Clarence in a profound way.The actress Ann Marie Duff looked like an English woman that I was once going to marry. I find it interesting that they both shared the same name of Kathryn. They also both played the guitar and sang," A Nightengale Sang In Berkley Square." I was shocked when I saw the scene of Duff playing and singing that song. I felt like I could have swooned.I understand the end of the movie quite well when it concerns the need for forgivness.I saw the movie four days in a row. The film made me cry. You would maybe cry to if you saw something of your life on the silver screen.There are some people who do not think much of this movie because they think that it is dry and boring. I do not think that I will ever see another film like this ever again. The film was profound for me personally. I would like to add that Kathryn Ann is far more beautiful than Ann Marie Duff.A grand film!!!
Little Edward(Bill Milner) has been relocated from his room, andlifestyle when his Mom and Dad open their house as a nursing home, forthe greater good. Being displaced has its consequences as Edwarddevelops a morbid curiosity of the end of mortal life. As fate wouldhave it, Clarence(Michael Caine) in a deep and moving performancealmost runs over the young lad, who is listening to the last sounds oflife while walking down the street. Clarence, a retired magician, is atthe end of his means, and has no reason to continue on. Edward, in anascent love-hate relationship, strikes up a friendship with the agingprestidigitator, and Clarence starts to rekindle a renewed interest inlife. The character of the nursing home residents is also fleshed out,and is weaved nicely into the main thread.Gentle and heartfelt scenesfill the screen, from the ocean beach bench to the final resting placeof Clarences' beloved Annie, you are taken into their world, andreminded of kindness, and gentle moments. Truly a memorable film, nottidy , because, it is ......Fine performances by the entire cast ! Very fulfilling......timeless.
'Is Anybody There?' is a rather depressing little film with MichaelCaine (decrepit and, at first, suicidal) and a creepy little boy (BillMilner from the delightful 'Son of Rambow'). Edward, who's eleven,lives in an old people's home his parents run, and Clarance (Caine) isa retired magician who comes very unwillingly to live there too. Hekeeps his run-down tour van parked in the yard, like the crazy personwho used to camp in Alan Bennett's driveway, and hopes to escape in itsoon. Clarance, who misses his late wife, rages against the dying ofthe light, but he is encountering a lot of humiliations. When he findsEdward has an unhealthy obsession with dying and is tape recording thelast gasps of expiring inmates of the home to capture their ghosts, herealizes the boy is in a worse place than he is. As two outcasts,Edward and Clarance bond. A suicidal old man and a pre-teen pursuer ofghosts: at first, it's almost as self-consciously morbid as 'Harold andMaude.'There was much hope that this would be a special film, given itsdirector's history of prize-winning London and New York productions ofMartin McDonagh's 'Pillowman,' a promising (if incomprehensibly Irish)first film, 'Intermission' (with Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy) andhis searing and bold 'Boy A.' This new film is edited nicely: it flitsfrom scene to scene without fanfare. The early scenes seem unpromising,but that's the English attitude, isn't it, that life is pinched andmessy but you make the best of it? The fact is, this is a pretty markedcomedown after 'Pillowman' and 'Boy A.'This is an actor's showcase, though. Crowley is a good director and hegets able work from all his cast. Michael Caine's on-screenperformances (he's Sir Michael now) are all master classes in filmacting and he's magnificent as Clarance. Bill Milner is wonderfully dryand snarky and natural. Anne-Marie Duff and David Morrissey are good asEdward's two parents, struggling to deal with the 39-year-old dad'slust for an 18-year-old nurse's aide and to make a go of the home afterjust a year, in the late Eighties. A half dozen choice character actorsare lightly delineated as the main oldsters.To state the obvious, a film about a retirement home is a good way totalk about aging, and you can round out your story by having yourcharacters die. They're over the hill: departing this life comesnaturally to them. No plot twists necessary.But a film about a retirement home isn't necessarily a bold way to dealwith the hard subject of death. There is a tremendous danger ofdrifting into sentimentality and cuteness. And conventionality. This isthe third little English film at least that I've seen recently about alittle run-down old people's home where they all live together as a bigdysfunctional family. The idea is even more thoroughly developed,without an aging magician or morbid boy, in the Vanessa Redgravevehicle, 'How About You?', which deals with both the group dynamics andthe dying process a bit more memorably. But I remember my mother'sretirement high rise and find these quaint English versions false in awhole lot of ways. The writer of 'Is Anybody There?', Peter Harness,himself grew up in an old people's home. But this is a tough subject,after all, and nobody knows what dying's like till they're way beyondtelling.I'm going to give away the ending: Clarance dies. Where the film excelsis in how it makes this a moment of triumph for everyone. It isobviously a release for Clarance: he wanted to "top" himself at theoutset. But he has passed on some good magic tricks to Edward, and alsoconvinced the kid that when you die, you die. So when Clarance gives upthe ghost, to honor his elderly friend Edward gives up his ghostobsession. With that the house cheers up, his mum and dad start havingfun together, and he starts to play soccer; he becomes a real boy.There's a lovely moment when one of the old men gets up and kicks aball around with Edward and another kid--a reminder that someeighty-year-olds can still get frisky. These self-conscious oldstercomedies too often tend to forget that for most of its running time,even old age is about living, not dying.US theatrical release date: April 17, 2009.
There is a hazy feeling permeating through "Is Anybody There?" as theperception of life for the 10-year-old protagonist is affected by theimpermanence of the elderly residents living at home. Edward, who hasbeen asked by his parents to give up his bedroom to accommodateresidents in the house they have converted into a rest home, struggleswith the concept of death as the elderly around him decay and die. Hetries to record evidence of the existence of the soul while hisobsession makes him an outsider at school and in his own home. Thescenes are clearly his memories: this is the mid-80s with "Back to theFuture" at the movie theater and "Come on Eileen" on the radio, hisparents' quarrels, the boring classroom, his anger at the situation,and old folks dropping dead.Clarence, played masterfully by Michael Caine, is a former vaudevillemagician referred by social services and in the early stages ofdementia or Alzheimer's, who becomes a new resident in the home againsthis wishes. Eventually, Clarence's bitter cynicism is lifted byEdward's ebullience and they bond but despite magic tricks andtenderness their moments will be far from perfect and they will notnecessarily alter their belief system and be wiser.This movie does not follow the contrived formula of the oldperson/young person plot written and performed countless times, oftensweetened with sentimentality and conveying the idea that both liveswill change for the better. The older one, often bitter or jaded,learns to love again and spends his/her last days as a better humanbeing thanks to the younger one's candor and energy, while, theinexperienced younger one learns the bittersweet lessons of living anddying from the older one. Sometimes, the formula is inverted and theelderly is optimistic and energetic teaching a child how to open up tolife while the young one brings grounding common sense. "Is anybodyThere?" it is not this type of movie, there are no big lessons andimparting of wisdom. It is just a short tale of two lost souls meetingand departing and the process of aging and dying at a rest home. Thescenes do not try to be sentimental or evoke notion of what is livingand dying but search for a realistic tone showing the elderly and therest home daily living under a natural light.Michael Caine's poignant vulnerable performance as a man living on ameager pension in his last days while still trying to maintain hisdignity is award-worthy. Prodigious young actor Bill Milner (who wasfantastic in "Son of Rambow") is a perfect match creating a delightfulportrait of a lonely, confused and angry boy who is too smart for hisown good.If you are the type of viewer you enjoy conventional dramas or comediesthat involve children and seniors, this movie may not be for your. Ifyou wish to watch a British slice of life where a boy and an old mancome together for a brief shining moment as one is growing and theother dying, this movie is perfection.
What a peculiarly sour little film this is. It says something when,during the screening this writer attended, the projectionistaccidentally got his reels mixed up and screened a few moments ofBergmanesque vampire flick Let The Right One In - and it came as a bitof light relief.British cinema loves northern childhoods - that mix of grit andsentimentality is irresistible - and screenwriter Peter Harness hascalled on boyhood memories of being raised in his parents-run nursinghome in Hornsea, east Yorkshire, in the 1980s.Growing up in such an environment, 10-year-old Edward (Bill Milner, SonOf Rambow) is closer in proximity to death than most children. Perhapsas a consequence he's morbidly obsessed with the afterlife, rigging upmics in the rooms of those about to snuff it, in an attempt to recordthe sound of the soul as it leaves the body. "I wonder if this is howthe Yorkshire Ripper started?" frets dad (David Morrissey).Widowed, suicidal magician 'The Amazing' Clarence (Michael Caine),initially prefers to live in his van in the grounds, like AlanBennett's Old Lady, but is soon moved into the boy's old bedroom. "Iused to have Paddington Bear wallpaper" glums Edward. "I used to have abeautiful wife and all my own teeth" retorts Clarence. Before long, theersatz (grand)father figure is giving Edward conjuring lessons andEdward is teaching the old dog some new tricks, and you can betthere'll be some life-lessons on both sides before checking-out time.After Paradise Grove and How About You, this is the UK's thirdmelodrama since 2003 to be set in a retirement home. Given the familiarset-up, Is Anybody There might reasonably be expected to play out assome rambunctious, feel good weepie, a cross between Harold And Maudeand One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, in which an anarchic Clarenceshakes up folks young and old.This isn't that film. Despite Caine half-heartedly quoting DylanThomas, this hardly rages against the dying of the light - just whingesirritably about Seasonal Affective Disorder. 'Irascible but lovable'was probably the general idea, but Caine's Clarence, self-pitying andaggressive, is really just repellent - as sinister as some forgotten,moulting old teddy bear with a shredded ear and an eye dangling fromits socket, glowering accusatorily from the toy box in the dead ofnight."You accumulate regrets and they stick to you like old bruises" is oneof his unwanted observations. "On his grave they'll write, 'He wasborn, he effed it up, then he died'" is another. His senile dementia,which comes on with indecent speed, only serves to make him more, notless, troubling, as if he might suddenly start slapping Edward aboutwithout warning.Mainly, we're left with the overriding image of a miserable old manshouting angrily at a creepy little boy and the little boy swearingback at him, until one of them collapses. The lesson being: death isinevitable and there's no life after death and you'd better get used toit - so bloody well buck up before I bray thee, lad.Meanwhile, as a mullet with a mid-life crisis, Morrissey slips backinto his 'It's right grim oop North, in't it?' default mode, andAnne-Marie Duff mithers in the background as mum. Trembling likeliver-spotted jellies, the supporting cast of legendary British thespsis unforgivably wasted, their tiny cameos left to riff on past glories.Leslie Phillips, therefore, is a dirty old man, while Peter Vaughancomes on like a pensionable version of Grouty from 'Porridge', warningCaine's new inmate, "The first night's the worst, laddie." It's a filmto respect or admire from a distance, rather than like or, you know,actually enjoy. There's so much collective talent here, from thatvintage cast, to composer Joby Talbot ('The League Of Gentlemen'; TheDivine Comedy), along with the producers (Little Miss Sunshine) - andCrowley himself, director of Channel 4's superb BAFTA-winning teleplay'Boy A.' So it's a pity that, aside from one fantastically surrealimage of an occupied body bag descending on a Stannah stair lift, thedirection's so staid, and the tone misfires so badly.Sadly, one suspects that the film's title may also be hostaged tofortune as far as potential audiences are concerned. Is anybody there?No - they're all next door watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Brilliant. I loved every minute of it.The movie had the perfect mix of comedy and drama. It's a joy to watchBill Milner (of Son of Rambow fame) go toe to toe with Michael Caine.It was interesting to hear from the director how the movie originallyhad political undertones. As I recall from the Q&A at the TIFFscreenings, the director said that the movie was set in the late 80spartly because of Margaret Thatcher - who declared that "There's nosuch thing as society... only individuals and families."I'm glad they decided to skip the politics altogether though. It wouldhave taken away from such a simple story that in itself is justbeautiful one to watch.
At an old folks home, a boy is growing up with death. His favourite show is ghost hunting. He needs to live and that is what Michael Caine bring to this slow moving vehicle of a movie.