Life Before Death
Here we go again, I find myself watching a movie which I really want to like but no matter how much I try there is something about "Is Anybody There?" which is holding me back. I think it is the quiet tone because it often makes it laborious, entertaining when it focuses on the two central characters, occasionally amusing at the antics of the various old folk in an old people's home but often too meandering. Shame really as "Is Anybody There?" not only features entertaining performances from Michael Caine and young Bill Milner but also features a lot of well known faces from British TV and cinema such as Sylvia Syms, Rosemary Harris and Thelma Barlow.
Young Edward (Bill Milner) has a fascination with dying and a good job to because his parents run a home for the elderly some of which are on the verge of kicking the bucket. Despite that it also gets to him having to live with a bunch of old people that is until Clarence (Michael Caine - The Dark Knight) moves in. A former magician Clarence doesn't want to live with the elderly but has no choice and initially doesn't like the persistent young Edward but slowly they form an unlikely friendship.
The heart of "Is Anybody There?" focuses on the friendship which forms between Clarence and Edward and how they end up changing each other. It is not something new as there have been a variety of movies which focus on a friendship between someone young and someone old but it is where this movie works. On one hand we have Clarence who having grown to despise life and what old age means finds enjoyment from hanging around with Edward. And then there is young Edward who thanks to Clarence's encouragement starts to enjoy living rather than being morbidly fascinated with death. All of which is incredibly simple but it is also very touching thanks to the performances of Michael Caine and Bill Milner.
Then there is the backdrop to this which is a bit of a curiosity as we have the quirky residents of the home. Now on one hand it is a joy to see such actors as Sylvia Syms, Leslie Phillips and Rosemary Harris but unfortunately these talented actors and actresses are criminally underused. And then running alongside this is Edwards mum and dad with his dad's attempts to flirt with the young help. Unfortunately whilst all of this is mildly amusing it is also incredibly slow and only really comes to life when it focuses on the friendship between Clarence and Edward.
What this all boils down to is that "Is Anybody There?" is a charming little movie with pleasant performances from all the cast especially from Michael Caine and Bill Milner. But it is a movie which far too often becomes hard work because of its lethargic pacing.