Edward (Bill Milner, “Son of Rambow”) is a young boy obsessed with death.
His bedroom, once covered in Paddington Bear wallpaper, has been commandeered to make extra space for paying tenants in the old-folks home “ a parental business venture that has filled the boy’s abode with strange and often surly seniors.
Edward’s kind, caring mom (Anne-Marie Duff, “Notes on a Scandal”) is a reckless optimist who truly believes the family business, although unglamorous, is good and brings relief to many in their last moments of life.
Dad, however, doesn’t quite share her perspective. Generally grumpy and creepy, Dad (David Morrissey, “The Other Boleyn Girl”) stomps around the home, groaning when bothered by his gently nagging wife and eagerly eyeing and trying to impress a young employee named Tanya (Linzey Cocker, “Wild Child”).
Neither parent pays much attention to Edward’s primary pastime, the study of the supernatural and paranormal. Under the direction of television stories detailing ghosts and the spiritual realm, he has become best friends with a portable tape recorder and microphone, which he uses to capture the sounds of recently dead tenants and later reviews the tapes over headphones, scanning for any spiritual sounds or ghoulish revelations.
Edward’s hobby is strange, even to outcast Clarence (Michael Caine, “The Dark Knight”), a depressive ex-magician who reluctantly moves into the house and into the boy’s life. Clarence is perpetually morose and cantankerous, generally unpleasant and unapproachable. A great sadness is eventually revealed about Clarence, who struggles to come to terms with his past while developing a kinship with a young boy eager to discover a meaning and purpose for living.
The other seniors “ misters drunk, stutter and tremor, and misses happy, dancer and mean “ flesh out bits of comedy and personality throughout the film.
Caine plays a perfect crank, imbuing his character with likable layers of sarcasm and cynicism. The most poignant scenes of “Is Anybody There?” come when he and the boy are alone, sitting together on a park bench or down in the basement conjuring ghouls in a s