Review: 'Is Anybody There?'

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Michael Caine is a tour de force in this gentle drama about a widower and his friendship with a boy obsessed with life after death.

Michael Caine gives a marvelous performance as a curmudgeonly retired magician sent by Social Services to a family-run seaside old-age home in John Crowley's "Is Anybody There?" Caine picks his roles very carefully these days – he keeps threatening to hang it up – and so a tour de force such as this is doubly welcome.

As Clarence Parkinson, a grieving widower whose life, as opposed to his act, is distinctly unmagical, Caine doesn't go for easy pathos. Clarence's relationship with the family's 10-year-old son Edward (Bill Milner, of "Son of Rambow"), who is obsessed with wanting to know what comes after death, is the emotional core of the story, but it is Caine's seemingly effortless mastery, after a lifetime of acting, that is the real attraction here. Grade: A- (Rated PG-13 for language, including sexual references and some disturbing images.)

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