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Is Anybody There? (2008)

PG-13 | | Drama | 15 May 2009 (USA)
2:12 | Trailer
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. While his mother struggles to keep the family ... See full summary »


John Crowley


Peter Harness
2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Bill Milner ... Edward
Anne-Marie Duff ... Mum
Ralph Riach ... Clive
Linzey Cocker ... Tanya
Elizabeth Spriggs ... Prudence
Leslie Phillips ... Reg
Sylvia Syms ... Lilian
Rosemary Harris ... Elsie
David Morrissey ... Dad
Thelma Barlow Thelma Barlow ... Ena
Peter Vaughan ... Bob
Carl McCrystal ... Undertaker 1
Andrew Turner Andrew Turner ... Undertaker 2
Michael Caine ... Clarence
Ollie Kaiper-Leach Ollie Kaiper-Leach ... Barry (as Oliver Leach)
Learn more

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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. While his mother struggles to keep the family business afloat, and his father copes with the on-set of a 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. This movie 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.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for language including sexual references, and some disturbing images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Leslie Phillips spoke out against this movie after it was released, as he said it had been completely changed, from the story he and the other elderly actors were making, about an old people's home, in order to concentrate on the relationship between Sir Michael Caine and the boy. See more »


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 »


Edward: [about death] I'm not scared. I just want to know what happens.
See more »


Features World of Strange Powers (1985) See more »


One Man & His Dog Theme Tune
Written by Alan Benson
Published by Chappell Music Ltd
All rights administered by Warner Chappell Music Ltd
(p) BBC
Licensed courtesy of BBC Worldwide
See more »

User Reviews

A humble and restrained piece of cinema.
3 November 2009 | by OtobokeSee all my reviews

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 reality—standing 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 boy—his 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 occupation—you guessed it—magician. 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 rest—instead, 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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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

15 May 2009 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Is Anybody There? See more »

Filming Locations:

Hythe, Kent, England, UK See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$46,209, 19 April 2009

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color (DeLuxe)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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