Is Anybody There?
Much as Gran Torino provided a dignified swansong for Clint Eastwood’s popular tough guy persona, John Intermission Crowley’s new film draws on the reservoir of affection that several generations harbour for Michael Caine.
Caine plays Clarence, a suicidal magician struggling to cope with life after the death of his wife. After moving into a drab seaside-town retirement home owned by David Morrissey and Anne Marie Duff, Clarence is befriended by their ten-year old son Edward (Bill Milner), a day dreaming malcontent with a fascination for all things supernatural. Somewhere between the magic Clarence practices and the grim realities of life in the home, an unlikely friendship teaches Edward about life’s hard truths, notably through a shocking incident during which one of Clarence’s tricks goes violently wrong.
Crowley’s film makes a good companion piece to Garth Jennings’ Son of Rambow, and not just because both films feature Milner coming of age in a 1980’s retirement home. Where Jennings focuses on the charming naiveté of youth, Peter Harness’ script considers the cocksure charm of the worldly, with Caine skillfully underplaying a potentially mawkish role in a way that avoids obvious sentimentality. Veterans Rosemary Harris, Peter Vaughn, Sylvia Syms and Leslie Phillips all contribute in minor roles, but this is Caine’s turn in the spotlight.
Selected release from Fri 1 May.