Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Michael Caine, Bill Milner, Anne-Marie Duff, David Morrissey, Rosemary Harris, Elizabeth Spriggs, Leslie Phillips, Peter Vaughan, Linzey Cocker
Written by: Peter Harness
Directed by: John Crowley
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including sexual references, and some disturbing images
Running Time: 95
Date: 09/07/2008
IMDB

Is Anybody There? (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Magic Sour

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Usually these types of coming-of-age stories crossed with unlikely-friendship stories don't work. There are too many of them, and they tend to copy one another rather than finding elements from life. But Is Anybody There? has something extra, perhaps a measure of British working class heft. Or perhaps it's Michael Caine's delightful, scowling, curmudgeonly performance as Clarence, an aging, widowed magician who checks into an old folks' home. (The movie is already being advertised based on the quality of his work.) Ten year-old Edward (Bill Milner) also lives there, feeling lost and lonely while his parents run the place and rent out his room. At first Clarence wants nothing to do with Edward -- who is fascinated with hunting for and recording ghosts -- but their friendship grows slowly based on their mutual disgust for the rest of the household. Indeed, director John Crowley (Intermission, Boy A) does a terrific job of balancing the film's overt sweetness with the grim realities of childhood and old age (and even middle age in a subplot involving Edward's father). It's a fairly lightweight distraction, but a good one.

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