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An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
Set in 1980s seaside England, this is the story of Edward, an unusual ten year old boy growing up in an old people's home run by his parents. Whilst his mother struggles to keep the family business afloat, and his father copes with the onset of mid-life crisis, Edward is busy tape-recording the elderly residents to try and discover what happens when they die. Increasingly obsessed with ghosts and the afterlife, Edward's is a rather lonely existence until he meets Clarence, the latest recruit to the home, a retired magician with a liberating streak of anarchy. Is Anybody There? tells the story of this odd couple - a boy and an old man - facing life together, with Edward learning to live in the moment and Clarence coming to terms with the past. Written by
Some think the father's mustache at the party is a continuity error as he shaved it off that morning. However, it is a fancy dress party and the father is clearly wearing a fake mustache to go with his costume. See more »
Now for those of you who have never before sat in a seance, there is absolutely nothing to be fearful of. Ghosts... are very friendly sorts. They like a nice chin wag. But they're very scared of loud noises and sudden movements. Which is the reason why they're very rarely to be sighted in discos and wrestling matches, for example.
You shouldn't joke. It'll make 'em vengeful.
[raises hand in supplication]
Spirits... please accept my mortal apology.
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The magician is a curious fellow; he spends his days and nights ceaselessly going over his tricks and illusions, making sure all creases and seams are hidden from view so that he may able to dispel reality, if only for a few moments. For those on the other side of the fence, the magician can be seen either as a craftsman dedicated to his art, or as something of a ray of light that hints at something else; something more than the dirt in the ground and the worms at our feet. Yet, for all the glimmers of hope and magic that the illusionist creates in the wake of his act however, there is that ever-looming cloud of certainty that plagues his own realitystanding behind the curtain, the magician is aware of the wires, the trap doors and the contraptions set up to make the mundane seem a little more fantastic; to the man with the rabbit in his hat, the world is a playground where one can briefly create an imaginary world where magic lives, but unlike those that he tricks, the magic never truly lives on once that curtain falls.
Somewhere in the audience is a young, bright-eyed boyhis name is Edward (Bill Milner) and he lives in an old-folk's home with his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and father (David Morrissey) where death is just as common as a hot meal. Rather than believing in the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause, Edward instead has a genuine infatuation with the afterlife, making sure never to miss an episode of Arthur C. Clarke's ghost hunt programme on terrestrial TV rather than play with LEGO; that is, until one day when a new resident takes up a place beside him and switches the channel over. The new guy is a man riddled with regret and cantankerous spite, his name Clarence (Michael Caine), previous occupationyou guessed itmagician. What so inevitably starts off as a hate-hate relationship between young paranormal enthusiast Edward and old, embittered and left-in-the-rain by ghosts of the past Clarence however soon blossoms into something a little more reflective and intertwined than any of them would have imagined.
The resulting story is something we've all seen or heard before, but perhaps with enough sombre nuances to render it something a little more cinsightful and uplifting than most of these stories. There's certainly no denying that Is Anybody There, on a purely ostensible, story-wise front does nothing new at all, but through development of these two characters (and others) who are brought to life wonderfully by the cast involved, the feature overcomes its rather tepid and pedestrian plot in favour of offering a subtle but pleasant character drama. Of course, there are issues throughout the feature which undermine all the good that is done throughout (this is most prominently realised in the final act which renders one plot-line through a banal, contrived resolution that directly clashes with the central story that ends on a much more refined note), yet much of these lay in the background, easy to overlook in favour of the movie's much more engrossing and charming elements.
So while at its heart a humble and restrained piece of cinema that doesn't necessarily break any new ground, it is this simplicity and obviously intentional subtlety that makes Is Anybody There a treat rather than a bore; director John Crowley acknowledges that Peter Harness' screenplay isn't one immediately pandering for big reactions from audiences, and he plays to this sense of realism and dignity throughout without sacrificing Harness' themes on life and death that trickle throughout. Make no mistake, you certainly couldn't be blamed for missing a small portion of Is Anybody There's reflections on life, but neither should you miss the restinstead, Crowley and Harness craft a feature that is simple in its design but larger than life in its messages and inner substance; it may not be perfect, no, but it's got enough humanity in there thanks to the cast to make it worth while, even if you think you've seen these life-affirming rites-of-passage movies before.
A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
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