Is There Anybody There?
- Director:John Crowley
- Cast:Thelma Barlow, Michael Caine, Linzey Cocker, Rosemary Harris
- Release Date:June 04, 2009
- Running time:92 minutes
- Film Worth:$12.50
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Death can be a terrifying thing, especially if you’re an eleven-year-old boy living in an old folks’ home. Not that it’s any easier for those considerably closer to the time when a man-in-black makes his call.
Lonely Edward (Bill Milner) struggles with the home that his parents run on England’s east coast by busying himself hunting ghosts. If he can make contact, he reasons, then no one really dies.
So starts John Crowley’s densely layered drama about death, dementia and desperation in the mid-eighties. Despite a nervous start that hints at quirky British comedy – Fawlty Towers run by The Royale Family – Is Anybody There? quickly signals other intentions. This is a bolder work than it appears, as thematic stratum builds into an altogether compelling yarn about facing fear and giving in to friendship.
Edward’s fascination for the paranormal is cut short with the arrival of emotionally gated retired magician Clarence (Michael Caine). He too has issues with the afterlife, notably a long overdue apology to his deceased wife. An unlikely pairing blossoms as the grieving widow and gloomy boy find comfort somewhere near the middle.
If there is a quintessentially English film, then Is Anybody There? is it. Crowley captures a time and place that is peppered with familiarly eccentric characters. Amid the painful subject matter lies an attractive sweetness, not an easy thing to pull off when dealing with the desperation of fading lives and fading minds. Caine offers one of his most engaging performances, and is boosted by the appealing energy that develops between himself and Milner. This well crafted film is given resonance and purpose with layers and layers of detail that make the bittersweet climax all the more heartwarming.