Is Anybody There? (12A)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner29/04/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 94 mins

Well made, sharply written and superbly acted drama that's both darkly funny and powerfully emotional.

What's it all about?
Directed by John Crowley (Intermission, Boy A), Is Anybody There? stars Bill Milner as Edward, a lonely young boy growing up in a seaside retirement home in the 1980s with his put-upon mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and his plumbing-the-depths-of-a-mid-life-crisis father (David Morrissey).

Largely ignored by his parents - his mother is overworked, his father is lusting after a young nurse (Linzey Cocker) - Bill is obsessed with death and trying to contact the departed spirits of the residents, but his life changes when crotchety retired magician Clarence (Michael Caine) arrives at the home and the two gradually become friends.

The Good
Bill Milner gives an extremely engaging performance, delivering splendidly on the promise he showed in Son of Rambow; he's both funny (especially his flashes of anger – ‘badgers are stupid!’) and heartbreaking in equal measure. He also has impressive chemistry with Caine, whilst there's strong support from both David Morrissey and Anne-Marie Duff.

As for Michael Caine, he delivers his best performance in years. This isn't the twinkly old mentor role you're probably expecting; in fact, Clarence isn't even all that likeable. Instead, Caine portrays a man on the very edge of senile dementia, with all the anger, frustration and resentment that entails. As a result, the final scenes of the film are incredibly moving.

The Great
The script is excellent and contains some terrific scenes; for example, there's a mishap at a birthday party magic show that will definitely stay with you. Similarly, there's a scene between Caine and Duff towards the end of the film that is brilliantly directed and acted and is guaranteed to have you in tears.

Worth seeing?
It's fair to say that Is Anybody There? isn't quite the heartwarming feel good comedy it's being marketed as, though it certainly has its share of darkly funny moments. That said, it's a well written, powerfully emotional drama with an Oscar-worthy performance by Michael Caine. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 22/10/2017 16:26

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