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Is Anybody There?
cast: Bill Milner, Michael Caine, David Morrissey, Leslie Phillips, and Sylvia Syms

director: John Crowley

91 minutes (12) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
An old-fashioned film in many ways that would not have seemed out of place as part of the fine series of films produced by Channel Four in the 1980s, particularly as it is set in that era.

Edward (Bill Milner, Son Of Rambow) lives with his parents (David Morrissey and Anne-Marie Duff) in their old folk's home. Solitary, obsessed with a search for evidence of life after death, Edward hides his tape recorder under the dead and dying inmate's beds hoping to catch a sound that will confirm the existence of something. Former stage magician and widower Clarence (Michael Caine, Flawless) lands up at the home, although he has made an earlier appearance bursting out of his caravan like a feral wolf-man after nearly knocking the distracted boy over.

Initially brittle and suspicious, the two are drawn together, Edward intrigued by Clarence's age and former profession, Clarence attempting to get the lad to find more normal pursuits. Meanwhile, Edward's dad attempts to hang on to his receding youth by making clumsy passes at the hired help.

The cast is superbly supplemented by a host of veteran actors and actresses who must have eagerly seized upon a script that called for gently broad performances without parody or disrespect. Leslie Phillips, Sylvia Sims, Peter Vaughan, Thelma Barlow, Rosemary Harris, and the late Elizabeth Spriggs, give sound solid and wonderfully understated comic turns.

Bill Milner is superb in a film that revolves around him; he is all gawky adolescence with hunched shoulders and swinging arms. Milner does not need any help from Caine who nevertheless is generous without detracting from his own fine performance. It is good that the workaholic Caine is at least being rewarded with decent scripts and can combine his blockbuster work with little movies like this.

Michael Caine in Is Anybody There?

The film steers a fine line with its inevitable pathos, at least one scene beside what may be Clarence's late wife's grave stumbles a bit, and Clarence's descent into senility seems a little sudden. But overall, director John Crowley has a sure hand. The 'wake' and Edward's birthday party are comedy gold.

DVD extras are a selection of cast and crew interviews.

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