Ten-year-old Edward lives in his family-run retirement home. While his mother struggles to keep the family business afloat and his father copes with the onset of a mid-life crisis, Edward leads an increasingly lonely existence until he meets Clarence (Michael Caine), a retired magician and grieving widower, who refuses to give in gracefully to old age. The two strike up an unlikely friendship which helps them both remember that magic is possible when life is lived to its fullest.
Seventy-six-year-old Michael Caine and 13-year-old Bill Milner (Son of Rambow
) make a fine comedy-drama team in Is Anybody There?
, a touching if predictable story about taking a chance on human contact in a sea of loneliness, regret and death. Caine plays Clarence, a retired magician forced to take up residence in a home for seniors. Despite his anger and indignation, Clarence establishes a relationship with Edward (Milner), the only child of a financially-strapped couple who reluctantly turned their home into a care facility. Surrounded by old people who die off with some frequency, Edward develops a fascination with the afterlife and ghosts. For a while, Clarence humors him, particularly in a memorable séance scene where the old man applies his illusionist skills to entertain Edward. But, for the most part, Clarence spends his time trying to draw Edward out of his morbid fixation and accept--as Clarence has with some cynicism--that when life comes to an end, that's it. Director John Crowley (Boy A
) does not avoid the tougher elements of this relationship story, particularly the way Edward has to watch Clarence slowly disintegrate, a broken man seeking forgiveness for all the things he considers unforgivable. But Crowley also has fun with the crazy life pool of Edward's house--the gaggle of elders who sing together and watch television and dance. The supporting cast includes some very familiar faces: Rosemary Harris (Spider-Man
), Sylvia Sims, Leslie Phillips. Predictable as Is Anybody There?
can be at times, the final act takes a surprising turn and is truly moving. --Tom Keogh