We subscribe to Netflix at one of the lowest rates they offer. This is wise on our part since we sometimes have trouble finding a couple of hours on an evening to sit down and watch a movie together. At least several times a year, one of those red Netflix envelopes will sit on a shelf in our family room for weeks, if not months.
Which is part of why watching Is Anybody There? on Sunday evening was a pleasure. We’d had it sitting around so long I had forgotten why we picked it. I knew it had Michael Caine in it, whom we both love. I knew the story centered on his character’s relationship with a boy. I knew he was nominated for an Oscar for the performance, but that was less helpful since he is often nominated.
Then it turned out that the story is set in a family run nursing home stocked with typically quirky, yet charming characters. And that the boy is slipping a tape recorder into rooms and holding a microphone up to warm corpses trying to record what death sounds like. (Which reminded me a bit of Joe Hill’s story, “Last Breath.”) “I just want to know what happens,” he keeps telling people when they catch him. The Amazing Clarence (Caine), a retired magician, arrives and is a sinking ship, crabby as all get out. Well. Suddenly I was watching a movie stocked with some of my favorite topics. How nice.
It’s not a great film. The movie is uneven. Some transitions in the relationships felt jarring, making me wonder what was cut. But there are some great scenes and Caine’s performance is sad and wonderful. He’s coaxed into trying to wring some last joy from a life that hasn’t been as dazzling as his stage name. He’s also trying to get the boy to connect more with the living rather than spend all of his time observing and thinking about death.
Worth seeing for fans of Michael Caine’s work and for those interested in stories and movies that grapple with the twilight portion of living. Trailer below.