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Is Anybody There?


Stars: Michael Caine, Bill Milner, Anne-Marie Duff, David Morrissey, Rosemary Harris, Sylvia Syms, Leslie Phillips, Peter Vaughan, Elizabeth Spriggs

Director: John Crowley

No matter what age you are, but especially if you're drawing your pension, you're likely to find this pretty depressing in the main. Nine-year-old Edward (Milner, a bright-eyed child star in the Freddie Highmore tradition) lives with his parents (Duff, Morrissey) in a rambling country house which they've turned into an old folks' home.

Not surprisingly, as one of the old 'uns seems to keel over every couple of months, Edward develops a morbid fascination with death, smuggling his tape recorder in to the dying to record their last breath in the hope of hearing something connected to the hereafter. Cue cameos from Equity's oldest and dearest, including Vaughan, Spriggs (who really did die just after filming), Harris, Phillips and Syms, who, at 74, can't come near convincing us that she has a daughter of 66.

Edward, bullied at school, does strike up a rapport with grumpy newcomer Clarence (Caine), a retired magician who mopes over his lost wife and tries to commit suicide soon after he arrives. 'Let's cheer this place up a bit,' he tells Edward. Unfortunately, 'a bit' is about right, apart from a magic show in which he accidentally chops off one of Vaughan's fingers.

While Duff wrings her hands and Morrissey lusts after the maid (Linzey Cocker), Caine sinks quickly into Alzheimer's and the film sinks way too far into misery. Even News at Ten will cheer you up after this one.

David Quinlan

UK 2009. UK Distributor: Optimum. Colour by deluxe.
94 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 27 Apr 2009