Is Anybody There? is a fantastic, entertaining film brought to you by director, John Crowley (Boy A), and produced by Marc Turtletaub (Little Miss Sunshine), Peter Saraf (Little Miss Sunshine), and David Heyman (Harry Potter). The movie is actually based off of the experiences of the writer, Peter Harness, while he was growing up in an convalescent home.
Is Anybody There? is a touching, funny story of friendship between a retired magician, Clarence (Michael Caine) and a death-obsessed boy, Edward (Bill Milner). The film is set in a convalescent home in a small English town during the late 1980′s. The two characters become unlikely friends after Clarence is forced, by social services, into the old folks’ home, owned by Edward’s parents. The two of them initially have a bit of a rocky start, but that changes once Edward learns Clarence is a magician. Clarence takes Edward on as his awkward little apprentice. Ultimately, the friendship has a dramatic impact upon their lives by causing them to move on from fear, resentment, and guilt to actually be able to enjoy other people.
Is Anybody There? has a lot going on in the story and is presented in a very simple way. As much as the film focuses on Clarence and Edward, there are subplots about the parents, and their relationship with each other, and the quirky, senile residents of the home. The use of the subplots is not void of purpose as they all relate with the overall tone and underlying message of the movie. The movie highlights the difficulties and emotions of each character in a powerful, yet hysterical manner. The random, dirty jokes of the men was totally unexpected and perfectly timed. So, although the film deals with a lot of depressing subjects, there were enough well timed moments that lightened the mood and made it fun when it needed to be.
I liked the fact that the movie sheds a different perspective on the elderly. It is easy to forget that they were once young, vibrant people that have disintegrated to a shadow of what they once were. There is one scene that really hit me. Is was of a women, a former dancer who lost her leg, and took out her dancing shoes and put them her feet and stared at them, reminiscing about the past; it was such a simple and yet touching moment. The residents in the home could have been incredibly depressing, but they weren’t. They were lively (in their own way) and show us that our elders are really the ones with the stories we should be listening to.
The only problem I had with the film was the predictable plot. The story is very similar to Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, but not nearly as annoying. What differs, in Is Anybody There?, is the acting by Michael Caine and Bill Milner. They both do a really amazing job at playing these characters. Michael Caine is great at playing the scowling old man and Bill Milner is a natural in front of the camera. The two of them were perfectly paired.
Is Anybody There? is a charming story about life, friendship, and letting go of resentment. One cannot change what happened in the past and things don’t necessarily work out the way one has planned, but if you make the best out of it, you might enjoy it a little more. I would recommend this movie to those who want to see an entertaining, thought-provoking film. It might cause you to be a little nicer to you parents or grandparents.
Here is the trailer…
Is Anybody There? will be released in theaters this Friday, April 17.