What You Need To Know:
IS ANYBODY THERE? has some great acting, especially Michael Caine who makes the movie work. The production quality is also excellent. That said, the movie is mostly discouraging, downbeat and depressing and ends on an occult note. Most of the characters have no spiritual roots. The plot never finds enough hope to make it worthwhile watching. Michael’s character professes to be an atheist, but he starts to go along with Edward’s spiritism. There is one positive reference to Jesus. There is also plenty of foul language and references to a desire for adultery.
(O, C, B, H, LL, V, S, A, D, M) Light occult worldview about finding spirits with one positive mention of Jesus and a lot of failed attempts to communicate with the dead as well as an atheist character and many post-Christian, non-religious characters; 16 obscenities and seven profanities; some violence man’s finger cut off in failed magic trick, car accident with bloodied elderly man, two deaths, boy throws mud at elderly man, and boys scuffle; father/husband contemplates adultery, several kisses (some passionate); no nudity; alcohol use; constant smoking; and, cruelty to elders, dishonesty.
IS ANYBODY THERE? tells the story of 12-year-old Edward, who lives with his Mum and Dad in the retirement home they manage in Northern England. Edward is preoccupied with death. He tries to tape record the spirits of the dying and dead occupants of the home. He talks about his experiments in school and scares everyone in his class. He is shunned by his classmates.
Enter Clarence, played wonderfully by Michael Caine. A retired magician who has lost his wife and is grieving, Clarence does not want to be at the home. And, Edward does not want him in his room. Edward makes life miserable for Clarence and brings him to tears when he throws mud clods at him. At one point, Clarence tries to commit suicide by filling his car with fumes, but Edward stops him. Edward asks if he saw a long, white tunnel with Jesus waiting. Clarence replies, “Yes, but some horrible little boy brought me back.”
Clarence eventually starts to come out of himself and realize that Edward needs help.
Clarence starts doing his magic act again, and Edward gets a new interest in life. He stops his morbid fixation on death. But, it’s clear that Clarence is becoming senile when he cuts off one of the older resident’s finger with the old magic guillotine trick.
IS ANYBODY THERE? has some great acting, especially Michael Caine who makes the movie work. That said, the movie is mostly discouraging, downbeat and depressing, especially when Michael Caine fakes a séance to play along with Edward’s interest in death, but then seems to have an encounter with his dead wife when he looks at Edward’s mother.
Most of the characters have no spiritual roots. Michael’s character professes to be an atheist, but he starts to go along with Edward’s spiritism. There is one positive reference to Jesus. There is also a strong storyline about Michael’s father lusting after the luscious 18-year-old housekeeper, who is passionately involved with several young men. One of the elderly men in the retirement home likes to tell Edward very dirty jokes. Edward is embarrassed and so is the audience.
In the final analysis, this is an arty movie. It is trying to examine real issues but doesn’t seem to have a point of view. The production quality is excellent, the sound effects superb, but the plot never finds enough hope to make it worthwhile watching. It should be noted that the spiritism is not occult in the sense of Edward trying to use the spirits of the dead for his own ends. He is merely trying to connect and so is Clarence who wants to apologize to his dead wife.
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