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Thursday, 23 April 2009

Is Anybody There? (2008)

We went to a preview of this BBC co-produced film which opens soon and which I understand leading actor Michael Caine agreed to make for a pittance since the script made him cry. Well, I know he is getting on and perhaps he is becoming more aware of his own mortality (as are we all), but honestly it was not that remarkable an exercise.

He plays an erstwhile stage magician, now in his dotage and generally grieving all that he has lost in the past. Set in 1987, he goes to live in a rambling old house, somewhere on the South Coast with a disillusioned rising-middle aged couple and their 10-year old son, who are making do by looking after wrinklies who can afford the cost of staying there -- not that they seem to have any particular skills in this area. The most interesting part of the movie is the assortment of elderly "guests", well known to us past the first flush of youth from their stage, film and TV roles: Sylvia Syms, Rosemary Harris, Thelma Barlow, Leslie Phillips, and Peter Vaughan for starters. The young lad, who is obsessed with ghosts and wonderment about what happens at death -- not surprising from the rapid turnover of the house's inhabitants -- forms a quirky attachment to Caine. The latter, in a bitter and cyncial turn, teaches the lad magic tricks and even performs a show for his fellow-oldies at which a guillotine trick goes madly wrong. It is clear that Caine is rapidly falling into senility and when the boy tries to help him to reconcile his past by locating his ex-wife's grave, one is left to wonder whether anything more is registering with the likeable but definitely past-it old coot.

I thought the boy (Bill Milner) looked vaguely familiar, but couldn't place him before doing some minor research. It appears that he played the lead in Sky's TV Easter extravaganza "Skellig" which frankly wasn't much cop. This film was infinitely better because of its superior casting, but was hardly the 'comedy of the year' as I have seen it advertised. Still, it is always a pleasure watching Michael (God bless you Sir) Caine.
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