Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is Anybody There?

A young 10-year-old is pretty much alone in 1980's rural England. He has no friends at school, and he certainly has none at home because he lives in his parents' assisted living home for the aged. He sees one after another of the tenants die, so much so that his hobby concerns what happens to the person after that die. In fact, he plants a tape recorder under the bed of the one he thinks will "leave" next in order to track when the ghost leaves the body.

In walks Clarence (played by Michael Caine), literally. He doesn't want to be there, obviously, but for some obvious and not-so-obvious reasons, he feels he must ("but it's temporary," he says, on the verge of crying). And at first, he and the young boy get off to a bad start. But when young Edward learns that Clarence knows magic tricks, he tries a little harder to get to know the old man.

At first, we wonder, also, why Clarence is there at the home. Yes, he lost his wife several years ago, and doesn't seem to know where she's buried. But, bit by bit, we see little lapses here and there, and definitely depression that this once strapping man is now at the mercy of the denizens in a place like this. As it turns out, a lapse of memory is a bad thing for a magician to have.

This is Michael Caine's latest, and I probably never would've taken a look at it had he not been in it. But he makes the property sparkle, even during the rather dry parts. Those "dry" parts set up the story and the personalities, mind you, but they're still rough to slog through. I actually think this is the best thing Caine has done in years, perhaps ever. He has to portray an old man who realizes he's losing his faculties, has already lost his wife, and is in the process of losing any real sense of who he ever was. He does it brilliantly.

I also thought it a story with a true spine. That is, there's nothing magical that happens outside of the tricks. Friendships take time to grow, and trust is even harder. The tale is heart-warming in ways, but not spectacularly so, because it still illustrates that getting old sucks big time, and stages of Alzheimer's make it even tougher.

Thumb's up.


Post a Comment

<< Home