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Is Anybody There?
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Reviewed on 2009-05-09
Received[2]  out of 4 stars
Ten-year-old Edward (Bill Milner from "Son of Rambow") is an inquisitive child fascinated by death, ghosts and the supernatural. His mum (Anne-Marie Duff from "The Magdalene Sisters") and dad (David Morrissey from "The Reaping" and "Basic Instinct 2") have turned his home into a senior citizen rooming house. His old room is now occupied by paying customers. He tape records the last breaths of the various residents in an effort to understand a possible afterlife.

His parents neglect him and he strikes up a friendship with a retired magician named Clarence (Academy Award winner Michael Caine from "The Cider House Rules" and "The Dark Knight"). Caine gives a superb performance that is wasted on a mediocre screenplay with an uneven tone.

This bittersweet movie zeroes in on the regrets that pile up amid the constant changes in life. It can't decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama. It tries to be light and witty then turns very dark with the morbid subject of death lurking in the background. It looks at opposite ends of the aging process by simultaneously watching Edward growing up and a house full of senile surrogate grandparents growing old.

Caine's character has periods of lucidity with memories of his past while battling dementia in the present. He shows how precarious and unwise it is for his character to be driving a vehicle. His lapses in concentration are further exposed when he attempts to perform magic tricks at Edward's birthday party.

This is another example of a British film where subtitles would come in handy since much of the dialogue is incomprehensible due to the accents and slang. Since an accumulation of bits and pieces of the material is lost in translation, it begs the question of why waste your time and money struggling to understand what is being said. The title comes from a sťance conducted by Clarence for Edward's benefit calling out to the ghosts that haunt their dwelling.

The patrons of the old age home have small supporting roles and often steal the show with the comedic relief provided by sporadically funny moments. These bit players include Rosemary Harris ("Spider-Man" trilogy and "Sunshine"), Peter Vaughan ("Death at a Funeral" and "The Remains of the Day"), Sylvia Sims ("The Queen" and "What a Girl Wants") and Thelma Barlow (Mrs. Henderson Presents" and "Coronation Street"). Now playing at the Tivoli, Rio and AMC Studio 30.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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