Is Anybody There?
Director John Crowley’s lighter follow-up to the anguished Boy A features a standard teaming of reluctant oldster and troubled youngster — both residents of a down-at-the-heels family-run rest home. One charming difference, besides retired-magician Clarence (Michael Caine, who could twinkly, tearily confide with bobbing accent in his sleep), is that the ornery kid (Bill Milner) gets as tetchy and self-pitying as his curmudgeonly pal. Milner was the Calvin-and-Hobbesian fantasist in Son of Rambow, and he again displays a headlong sense of enterprise as the mouthy junior-ghosthunter son of the home’s overworked owners (Anne-Marie Duff and David Morrissey). TV writer Peter Harness’ script finds a good macabre turning point for “The Amazing” Clarence’s precipitous decline into senility, but even Crowley can’t quite bring the thing in for a safe landing in all the slush.