..Victoria Barkley..

Is Anybody There?

John Crowley's Is Anybody There? is a touching tale, exploring lives of endings as witnessed by a youngster whose time is yet to begin.

Sometime in the 1980's, in England by the sea, there is an old age home, where an introverted boy of 11, named Edward (Bill Milner) is trying to make sense of it all. He lives at Lark Hall, run by his parents – an only child, with a cat and a tape recorder for constant company.

Death is the next and last move for the elderly residents here. Edward, who perhaps has taken on their unspoken desire to map out the unknown, fearlessly sets out to conquer the details of their final destination. Mostly, he records their dying moments and eagerly listens for possible signs of an afterlife.

Enter, Clarence Parkinson (Sir Michael Caine), a cognitively declining widower with many regrets, reluctantly leaving his former life behind. He shows up in an RV, with lots of memorabilia from his past as a magician, and takes up residence in Edward's old room.

These two, at the crossroads of life, one heading out and the other toward growing up, naturally belong together in spite of their initial aversion to each other. Out of synch with their natural direction, they have a lot to teach and learn from each other.

Edward doesn't know how to be a kid with friends of his own age. He is so focused on his quest to bring back answers from the unseen; he is in danger of letting his childhood pass him by. Clarence, on the other hand, can't let go of trying to re-enter his own past, in order to make amends. Serendipitously related, they are two sides of the same coin, stubbornly heading toward their own objectives. They resist forming an alliance until their slowly budding friendship offers both a chance to heal...

In spite of some wryly humorous scenes, this is not a light-hearted, movie. The stark realism of human frailty portrayed throughout the film would not be suitable for the emotionally delicate. It is not so much the death theme, as the little indignities of physical and emotional adversity that would concern me about viewing this with an overly sensitive or easily influenced audience.

Michael Caine's rendition of the crusty old magician is approachable and endearing. Bill Milner's role of Edward, far too heavy for one so young, is enacted to perfection.

Edward's loving, long suffering, and hard working mom, (Ann-Marie Duff), is so effortlessly portrayed that we forget that we are in the realm of fiction. David Morrissey, playing the immature dad going through a mid-life crisis, is well performed but stereotypical.

This movie is definitely not for the psychologically immature. Optimism is begrudgingly bestowed and hope is only ever so subtly suggested. However, it is still a well done, thought provoking, and poignant film; one that might find us smiling through our tears in the end.

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Other stories by Victoria Barkley:
Birthday Kirtan
Real Soul Food
The Gift
Silver Sixpence in her Shoe
Breakfast with Scot -- movie review
Sex Drive -- movie review
What Just Happened -- movie review
American Teen -- movie review
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian -- movie review
A Message From Mom
A Tale of Two Bunnies
Animal Nature
Into the Wild - movie review
Darshan in the Dark Light of the Moon
Love Never Dies
Green Roofs, Weeds and Wildflowers
Greeting Sunrise
Arctic Tale - movie review
Seasons of Gandhi