“Is Anybody There?”
You can’t put too much weight on this movie.
It won’t hold it.
It’s small in scope, and, as blockbuster films
go, small in stature, as well.
But there’s something winsome about it, anyway.
Bill Milner (of “Son Of Rambow”) plays Edward,
the little boy being raised in a nursing home that his
parents own. He’s
quiet, keeps to himself a lot, and watches the old people
with a mixture of clinical curiosity, and ill-disguised
loathing. He tells
his mother he wants his room back.
When somebody died in there, he’d secretly put a
tape recorder underneath the bed, so he could see if there
was anything to learn about their “transition.”
He seems to have a morbid fascination about death,
possibly because it’s closer to him than it is to other
boys his age. He’s
seen more of it. And
he isn’t scared of it, he insists, but his
“research” does drive him farther into his own little
world, which his parents don’t seem to notice.
It’s not that they bicker constantly, it’s just
that they work separately all the time (she’s the cook,
administrator, and personal assistant, he’s the handyman
and groundskeeper), and don’t seem to pay a lot of
attention to each other.
She’s so constantly distracted that she doesn’t
notice that he’s flirting with their only employee, a
part-time maid, who’s still a teenager.
Edward notices, though, and is distressed by both
his mother’s obliviousness and his father’s
The dynamics change when a new resident moves in,
Clarence (Michael Caine), who at first blusters about like
a lonely old grump, but something softens in him when he
sees that the delicate, awkward boy is also lonely.
Clarence and Edward begin an unlikely friendship:
the sputtering old retired magician and the
would-be magician’s apprentice, surrogate grandfather
and surrogate grandson, neither granting affection easily,
both quick to tell each other to “bugger off,” both
considering the other residents with a volatile mixture of
contempt and connection, usually just alternating between
the two. There’s
a powerful scene in the car together, where Clarence,
clearly starting to “lose it” mentally, thinks that
Edward’s mother is his long-departed beloved wife, who
left him because he cheated on her.
With tears in his eyes, he begs her forgiveness,
and she, bless her, has the grace to grant it to him, and
now he can truly depart in peace (Luke 2:29).
This, after he’d confided to the boy that regrets
cling to you when you’re old like a rotten smell that
just won’t go away.
not really schmaltzy, or as formulaic as it sounds.
There’s something that clicks between Edward and
Clarence, but the rest of the performers don’t add as
much as they should.
“Is Anybody There?” is not a huge, ambitious
film project, but it’s a quiet little story that
definitely has its fine moments.
Don’t expect too much.
But a sensitive and discerning moviegoer could do a
When have you learned to
appreciate a reluctant relationship with someone nowhere
near your age?
When has regret clung to you
like a rotten smell?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen,
Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church,