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Location: Dallas, TX
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Is Anybody There? (2008)

It took me three days to muster up enough strength to review Is Anybody There?, an absolutely heartbreaking film that slowly broke me down over the course of its brief 95 minutes. It is a small, good film, full of tart and funny moments. It also made me cry. I'm not talking about the kind of misty, watery eyes I got when I went to see Life Is Beautiful, or even my slight blubbering at the end of Million Dollar Baby. I'm talking about tears streaming uncontrollably down my face and dripping onto my shirt. My friend and I were both complete messes when we walked out of the theater. We walked straight from the theater to a bar. In the middle of the day.

Is Anybody There? centers around ten-year-old Edward (Bill Milner) who lives in a retirement home run by his struggling parents. He is surrounded by eccentric elderly people and, inevitably, by death. He deals with death in the only way he knows how: by obsessively recording and documenting it in an attempt to understand what happens afterwards. He records the death rattles of the residents and holds seances to talk with souls "on the other side." Not surprisingly, he drives his parents nuts. He meets his match in Clarence (Michael Caine) a retired septuagenarian magician who is grieving over the death of his wife. He is also slowly going senile, a process that is tortuously laid out for us over the course of the film.

I wanted Is Anybody There? to be a great film, but it's a tad too maudlin and tries too hard to tug on the heartstrings of the audience members. That said, it has some wonderful moments, particularly between Caine and Milner. It also has a deft touch with the residents of the home. So often the elderly are depicted in films as lovable cartoons. The seniors in Is Anybody There? actually come across as real people, which is a welcome achievement. So give it a look and see what you think--but I'm warning you, bring a handkerchief and do not, under any circumstance, wear mascara.

The amount of money I'd pay to see this film: $7