Having grown up surrounded by the elderly in what was, granted, more convalescent hospital than nursing home, I never thought I’d see that world on screen. But Michael Caine has blown those doors off with his award-worthy performance in John Crowley’s 'Is Anybody There?'.
The 1980s-set film reveals the intimate goings on in a family-run old people’s home in an English seaside town. Duff and Morrissey play parents to Milner’s 10-year-old Edward. The young loner witnesses firsthand the demise of his family unit and the business, as his father struggles with a mid-life crisis and his mother struggles to balance the books.
His one passion is to tape-record the residents of the home and the key events in their lives. The arrival of former magician Clarence (Caine), a self-loathing, broken man, sparks new interests for the quiet boy and the two become unlikely allies. However, their budding relationship takes a dark turn when Clarence indulges Edward’s unhealthy fascination with death while neglecting his own needs.
'Boy A' and 'Intermission' director Crowley depicts this unexplored microcosm without unnecessary sentimentality, despite the odd cheesy curveball in Peter Harness’ script. He masterfully shows how Edward is more comfortable in the company of the elderly than his own peers. Their illnesses, afflictions and, for some, death are part of his everyday life.
The 'Intermission' director injects humour at every turn, aided by a star-studded supporting cast including Phillips, Harris and Spriggs.
There is no denying the era: the film smells of the 1980s. The stone-washed denim, mullet hair-dos, music, scrunchies and make-up are reminders of the magic-obsessed era that current fashion trends will not let us forget.
'Son of Rambo' star Milner gives a spellbinding performance, mature beyond his years - he’s certainly an actor to keep an eye on.
Seventy-six-year-old Caine banishes memories of his stylish and handsome roles in cinema classics such as 'Zulu', 'The Italian Job' and 'Sleuth' to create a decrepit, bitter old man. His years of philandering, hedonism and excess long gone, Clarence could well be a lesson to all 'Alfie' wannabes.
The dialogue may drag in places, but, the plot hole of the fastest onset of dementia known to man aside, 'Is Anybody There?' shows Caine in one of his best - if not the best - roles to date.