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 exis... more »tence 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.« less
Lenny N. (Qsrasra) from FORT BRAGG, CA Reviewed on 9/23/2017...
This is a beautiful slice-of-life (and death) film. Slow-moving to the point I almost quit watching a couple times, but so glad I continued to the end. The heavy British accent contributed to my almost quitting, but watching this film was DEFINITELY worth my time. In the end, my eyes were moist and my heart was warm. I'll be keeping this one in my personal loaner library.
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Michael Caine Fans Give the Movie an Extra Star
Stephanie DePue | Carolina Beach, NC USA | 05/13/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Is Anybody There" is a 2008 production of British Broadcasting Corporation Films that has achieved a theatrical, art house release in the United States. It runs 95 minutes, was written by Peter Harness, directed by John Crowley, and stars that wonderful actor Michael Caine.
It is set in 1980's seaside England: it looks/sounds like the North of England to me, and concerns the interactions of Caine, playing the Amazing Clarence (Parkinson), retired magician, unwillingly taking up residence in an old people's home; and Edward (Bill Milner), an unusual ten year old boy who's fascinated by death, and well-placed to investigate that fascination, as he's growing up in the old people's home that's run by his parents.
Anne-Marie Duff plays Edward's Mum; David Morrissy, his Dad. The home is populated by a veritable stock company of well-known older English actors: considering the prevalence of plastic surgery, they might well have been made-up to look older, as Caine might have been. (The man seems to have no personal vanity.) They include Rosemary Harris as Elsie, Leslie Phillips as Reg, Elizabeth Spriggs as Prudence (it was her last picture); Sylvia Syms as Lilian, and that North of England stalwart, Peter Vaughan, as Bob. Speaking of which, you can cut the North of England accents in this picture with a knife: subtitles would sure have been helpful. Despite which, the acting is uniformly very good.
Conservative Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister in the 1980's, and this film is apparently set on her watch; it might have had some political thoughts. Thatcher's governance was noted for great, although costly in human terms, improvements in the British economy, and I'm a little surprised to see this setting of the family-run nursing home at that time. At one time, these live-in family nursing homes were not uncommon: a family just had to get a big old house -- they were not too popular, then --- and some old people to fill the rooms, and they had a living. During the time of my English exile, I actually knew such a family: they had to look after 24 little old ladies. It was always 24 breakfasts, 24 dinners, 24 teas. I wouldn't have thought this business model had lingered into the 1980's; but times have always been harder in the North of the country than the South, and perhaps it did linger in the North.
Let's face it; the subject matter makes this movie a downer. The thing about getting old is, you generally get sick, physically and/or mentally; you lose your looks, your job, your loved ones, and your friends; you get lonely, and then you die. There is some cheerfulness and hope in Caine's relationship with the boy; but this movie is certainly not going to be everybody's cuppa. The best reason to see it is, of course, Caine, a marvelous actor and a thrifty one, who can do a lot with a little. And he did give a bit of a nod to his loyal, longtime fans: at one point he's explaining to the boy why his marriage broke up, and he says," I couldn't settle down. I was very good-looking then, and I couldn't keep it in my pants." Well, hello, Alfie: some of us remember just how he looked then. For us, I give the movie an extra star. "
Solid Blu, great performance
Steve Kuehl | Ben Lomond, CA | 11/18/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Living, Aging, Dying and other Problems
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 01/08/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Crowley has been creating sensitive films that deal with difficult subjects (Intermission, Boy A) and somehow pulls them off brilliantly. IS ANYBODY THERE? on the surface is a simple story about a friendship that develops between a somewhat despondent elderly man and a young boy who wants to know what happens after life. In part due to the writing of Peter Harness and in part due to the stellar performances by Michael Caine and Bill Milner, this little Indie film slipped through the cracks of public notice only to be discovered once it has been released on DVD. It is worth the wait.
Edward (Bill Milner) is a ten-year-old boy living with his parents, Mum (Anne-Marie Duff) and Dad (David Morrissey) in 1980s England. In rough financial times the family has converted their small home into a retirement center where elderly folks progress towards their ends, grumble and gather for games and are entertained by whomever happens by. Edward, put out because he has given up his room for the old codgers, fancies ghosts and paranormal activities that he attempts to register on a tape recorder whenever one of the tenants dies. His life is one of frustration at having to live with the old folks, until one day by chance one Clarence the Amazing Magician (Michael Caine) parks at the house and takes up residence in a room recently vacated by a death. He is feisty yet he is also a bit morose, remembering his beloved deceased wife Annie who divorced him for his philandering - a fact for which he has never forgiven himself. Clarence and Edward gradually align; Edward learns some magic tricks from Clarence, while Clarence finds a fellow soul who will care about his plight. Clarence gifts the paranormal obsessed Edward with a séance and Edward shares secrets with Clarence - secrets such as standing before a mirror and uttering the name of a departed until they appear.
Not much changes around the retirement home until Dad foolishly tries to woo one of the young helpers and is recorded by Edward, releasing the recording to Mum, which sets in place a divorce. Edward is devastated at what he has done and turns to Clarence, but Clarence is set on suicide to join his Annie. How each of these two bruised males interact and help each other accept both life and death is the resolution of the story. The performances by Caine and Milner are remarkably fine and they are surrounded by some of our better elderly actors (Sylvia Syms, Rosemary Harris, Peter Vaughan Lesley Howard etc). Though the theme of the film is much about dying, it remains a buoyant, life affirming story of how desperately we all need to interact with others to give life special meaning. A very good film and one of Michael Caine's finest and most subtle performances on film. Grady Harp, January 10"
"Is Anybody There?" Reviewed
Coeur de Lion | 12/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had seen the movie, "Cider House Rules," which also starred that great British actor, Michael Caine. I had thoroughly enjoyed that film, so when I discovered that Michael Caine had made another superb movie with a human interest story-line, I decided to purchase "Is Anybody There?" which turned out to be equally as heart-wrenching and intense. I would highly recommend family viewing of this all-around high quality, wholesome film."