Is Anybody There? (2008) Poster

Is Anybody There? (2008)

  • Rate: 6.7/10 total 2,662 votes 
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Date: 1 May 2009 (USA)
  • Runtime: 94 min
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Is Anybody There? (2008)


Is Anybody There 2008tt1130088.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: Is Anybody There? (2008)
  • Rate: 6.7/10 total 2,662 votes 
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Date: 1 May 2009 (USA)
  • Runtime: 94 min
  • Filming Location: Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
  • Gross: $2,024,225(USA)(12 July 2009)
  • Director: John Crowley
  • Stars: Michael Caine, Bill Milner and Anne-Marie Duff
  • Original Music By: Joby Talbot   
  • Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
  • Plot Keyword: Magician | Retirement Home | Senility | Palsey | Sexual Harassment

Writing Credits By:

  • Peter Harness (written by)

Known Trivia

  • The last film of Elizabeth Spriggs. She died during post production.

Goofs: Incorrectly regarded as goofs: Some think the father's mustache at the party is a continuity error as he shaved it off that morning. However, it is a fancy dress party and the father is clearly wearing a fake mustache to go with his costume.

Plot: Set in 1980s seaside England, this is the story of Edward, an unusual ten year old boy growing up in an old people's home run by his parents… See more »  »

Story: Set in 1980s seaside England, this is the story of Edward, an unusual ten year old boy growing up in an old people's home run by his parents. Whilst his mother struggles to keep the family business afloat, and his father copes with the onset of mid-life crisis, Edward is busy tape-recording the elderly residents to try and discover what happens when they die. Increasingly obsessed with ghosts and the afterlife, Edward's is a rather lonely existence until he meets Clarence, the latest recruit to the home, a retired magician with a liberating streak of anarchy. Is There Anybody There? tells the story of this odd couple – a boy and an old man – facing life together, with Edward learning to live in the moment and Clarence coming to terms with the past.Written by Anonymous  


Synopsis: Growing up and growing old never played so poignantly as it does in John Crowley’s Is Anybody There? The film grapples with the sad truths of getting older and losing loved ones, all the while maintaining a sardonic wit and sincere warmth. Coming of age in a family-run rest home, the reclusive, death-obsessed Edward (Bill Milner, Son of Rambow) wiles away his days tormenting his parents elderly residents and secretly tape-recording them in search of answers about the afterlife. Edward finds a kindred spirit in Clarence (Michael Caine), the curmudgeonly, retired magician who begrudgingly takes up residence at the guest home. The two strike up an unlikely friendship that helps Clarence come to terms with losing his wife, and Edward finds a way out of his shell. Milner holds his own alongside veteran Caine with a biting yet charming performance. Anne-Marie Duff (Notes on a Scandal) and David Morrissey (Basic Instinct 2) offer up moving support as Edwards working-class parents, who struggle to hold onto their marriage while making ends meet. The colorful cast of senior citizens, which includes seasoned actors Rosemary Harris (Aunt May from the Spiderman films) and Karl Johnson (Hot Fuzz, Rome), provides some of the film’s most melancholy and comic moments. Along with stellar performances from the impressive ensemble, Is Anybody There? is well-scripted and beautifully shot. Though it deals with some of lifes toughest moments, this is a film that is sure to appeal to audiences of all ages.

Ten-year-old Edward lives in his family-run retirement home. While his mother struggles to keep the family business afloat and his father copes with the onset of a mid-life crisis, Edward leads an increasingly lonely existence until he meets Clarence, a retired magician and grieving widower who refuses to give in gracefully to old age. The two strike up an unlikely friendship that helps them both remember what magic is possible when life is lived to its fullest.


FullCast & Crew

Produced By:

  • Rosie Alison known as co-producer
  • David Heyman known as producer
  • Mark Hubbard known as line producer
  • Christine Langan known as executive producer
  • Peter Saraf known as producer
  • David M. Thompson known as executive producer
  • Marc Turtletaub known as producer

FullCast & Crew:

  • Bill Milner known as Edward
  • Anne-Marie Duff known as Mum
  • Ralph Riach known as Clive
  • Linzey Cocker known as Tanya
  • Elizabeth Spriggs known as Prudence
  • Leslie Phillips known as Reg
  • Sylvia Syms known as Lilian
  • Rosemary Harris known as Elsie
  • David Morrissey known as Dad
  • Thelma Barlow known as Ena
  • Peter Vaughan known as Bob
  • Carl McCrystal known as Undertaker 1
  • Andrew Turner known as Undertaker 2
  • Michael Caine known as Clarence
  • Oliver Leach known as Barry
  • Ralph Ineson known as Mr. Kelly
  • David Rintoul known as Harry Price
  • Tommy Baxendale known as Tanya's Boyfriend Mike
  • Adam Drinkall known as Stuart
  • Edward Lees known as Ben
  • Larry David known as Fireman
  • Kevin Locke known as Entertainer
  • Jennifer Hennessy known as School Mother
  • Jamie Gilbert known as Tanya's New Boyfriend
  • Angie Inwards known as Mavis (as Angie Inward)
  • Garrick Hagon known as Douglas
  • Miles Jupp known as Vicar
  • Peter Harness known as Cameo as Cashier
  • Sue Wallace known as Mrs. Hitler
  • William Ilkley known as Barry's Dad
  • Myles Keogh known as Paramedic (as Michael Keogh)
  • Keith Hargreaves known as Bus driver
  • Charli Janeway known as Guy Who Walks (uncredited)
  • Karl Johnson known as Arthur (uncredited)
  • Karol Steele known as Passer-by (uncredited)



Supporting Department

Makeup Department:
  • Fae Hammond known as makeup designer
  • Gemma Richards known as makeup artist
  • Gemma Richardson known as hair stylist: crowd dailies
  • Gemma Richardson known as makeup artist: crowd dailies

Art Department:

  • Paul Bowring known as construction manager
  • Garry Dawson known as stand-by props
  • Kevin Day known as stand-by props
  • Gavin Grant known as props
  • Douglas Ingram known as storyboard artist
  • Dean Lee known as trainee props (2008)
  • Loretta Lipworth known as art department trainee
  • Chris Lunney known as graphic designer
  • James Mannell known as props
  • Steve Register known as property master
  • Oliver Roberts known as stand-by art director
  • Dorothy Sullivan known as assistant set decorator




Production Companies:

  • BBC Films
  • Big Beach Films
  • Heyday Films

Other Companies:

  • Premier PR  publicity (UK)
  • Arion Facilities  dailies telecine transfers
  • Audiolink Radio Communications  walkie talkies
  • Bluff Hampton Company, The  visual effects by
  • Casting Collective  extras casting
  • Chiltern Railways  thanks
  • Dolby Laboratories  sound mix
  • Film London  thanks
  • Fuji Photo Film  motion picture film supplied by
  • Hastings Film Office  thanks
  • Kent Film Office  thanks
  • Little Chalfont Golf Club  thanks
  • London Session Orchestra, The  orchestra (uncredited)
  • Martin Next & Family  thanks
  • Panalux  grip and lighting equipment
  • Production Copier Company  production equipment and services
  • Rye Harbour Nature Reserve  thanks
  • Sapex Scripts  post-production script services
  • Screen East  thanks
  • Screen South  special thanks
  • South Eastern Trains  thanks
  • Take 2 Film Services  camera equipment provided by
  • Teachers, Pupils & Parents at St. peter CEP School, Folkstone  thanks


  • Maximum Film Distribution (2008) (Canada) (theatrical)
  • Optimum Releasing (2009) (UK) (theatrical)
  • Stony Island Entertainment (2009) (USA) (theatrical)
  • Hopscotch Entertainment (2009) (New Zealand) (all media)
  • Magnolia Home Entertainment (2009) (USA) (DVD) (Blu-ray)
  • Optimum Home Entertainment (2009) (UK) (DVD)
  • Roadshow Entertainment (2009) (Australia) (all media)



Other Stuff

Special Effects:

  • Foreign Office (titles)
  • Fugitive Studios (digital end roller)
  • Vine Post Production

Visual Effects by:

  • Matthew Bristowe known as digital lab producer: MPC
  • Kelly Bruce known as compositor
  • James Cundill known as online editor
  • Charley Henley known as visual effects supervisor
  • Jeremy Hey known as digital compositor
  • Max Horton known as digital colourist
  • Michael Illingworth known as visual effects artist
  • Begoña Lopez known as digital lab producer: MPC
  • Sona Pak known as visual effects producer
  • Chris Shaw known as visual effects set supervisor
  • Giuseppe Tagliavini known as digital compositor: MPC
  • Pat Wintersgill known as on-line editor

Release Date:

  • Canada 7 September 2008 (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • Germany 5 February 2009 (European Film Market)
  • UK 15 February 2009 (Glasgow Film Festival)
  • USA 8 April 2009 (Phoenix Film Festival)
  • USA 17 April 2009 (limited)
  • Ireland 1 May 2009
  • UK 1 May 2009
  • USA 1 May 2009
  • Canada 15 May 2009 (limited)
  • Australia 4 June 2009
  • New Zealand 10 September 2009
  • Poland 22 August 2011 (TV premiere)

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for language including sexual references, and some disturbing images



Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

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Posted on March 30, 2012 by Harry in Movies | Tags: , .


  1. nicolepacampara from Canada
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    Brilliant. I loved every minute of it.

    The movie had the perfect mix of comedy and drama. It's a joy to watchBill Milner (of Son of Rambow fame) go toe to toe with Michael Caine.

    It was interesting to hear from the director how the movie originallyhad political undertones. As I recall from the Q&A at the TIFFscreenings, the director said that the movie was set in the late 80spartly because of Margaret Thatcher – who declared that "There's nosuch thing as society… only individuals and families."

    I'm glad they decided to skip the politics altogether though. It wouldhave taken away from such a simple story that in itself is justbeautiful one to watch.

  2. druid333-2 from United States
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    In his fifty,or so years since he had an uncredited role in a now longforgotten British film,Michael Caine has made a name for himself inBritish cinema. 'Is There Anybody There' will certainly cement hisreputation that much further. Granted,he has acted in his share ofstinkers, but the good/superb films out weighs them. For this outing,Caine is Clarence,a retired Magician who has just moved into a nursinghome,on England's seacoast sometime in the later half of the 1980's. A10 year old boy,who is obsessed with death & ghosts has a badintroduction with Clarence,who comes off as the typical grouchy old manwho just wants to be left alone. Over a period of time,the boy learnssome valuable life lessons about age. Do the two of them bond afriendship? What I admired about this film that it doesn't paint theelderly as something to be pitied or feared. The film is rounded out bya cast of mostly unknown British actors (at least by me,anyway,but itdidn't diminish the film one bit). A screenplay that equally mixeshumour,drama & pathos makes for a sparkling cocktail of a film thatwill have the viewer exiting the cinema feeling good. Rated PG-13 bythe MPAA,this film contains some salty language,adult situations & ahorrific (but darkly humorous)image of a magic trick gone horriblywrong.

  3. Jerome from United Kingdom
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    Not knowing what to expect of this film we were pleasantly surprised,relieved in fact. One critic had rated it as 'morbid' – just what weneeded on a bank holiday afternoon – when in fact it was quiteuplifting.

    There was no waiting around, Cowley took the audience directly to thesitting room of the elderly peoples home. You didn't know whether tolaugh or cry at the antics of some of the elderly residents – anex-dancer, a drunkard, war veteran – who, as interesting as theylooked, were never discussed in much detail. They were 'props', clichésor as Edward would put it, 'pains in the backside'.

    Indeed, we are made to see the residents as Edward did. Their anticsare in fact, annoyances, enough to drive a wedge between him and hisparents. Edward, who celebrates his 11th birthday in the film, isfocused solely on finding out what happens after death. He played thepart beautifully with such naivety and sincerity.

    The arrival of Clarence to the home would change Edward more than hewould think and vice versa. It was nice to see the relationship growbetween the two. For the very first time, Edward would begin to lookupon one of the residents as a grandfather figure, someone who wouldteach him new tricks and to live for the living, not for the dead. Notonly did Clarence become a grandfather to Edward but also a friend.There are some great snapshots throughout of the two of them.

    Overall, it was a nice film that taught us to live for the moment andthat regrets can eat you up inside. It also reveals truths aboutresidential homes: 'you live all your life on your own and then someonethinks it's a good idea to put you with complete strangers'. We mustremember that despite having their age in common, elderly people areall unique and should be treated so. Despite being set in the 1980's,the colours and styles all depicting this era wonderfully, these'lessons in life' are as true today as they were back then.

  4. David Ferguson ( from Dallas, Texas
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    Greetings again from the darkness. I will always pay to see MichaelCaine act. I have always found his relaxed, natural approach to befascinating, entertaining and mostly effective. As the AmazingClarence, an elderly career magician, he is just fantastic. This may bethe first role where he has actually gone out of his way to look olderthan he actually is.

    When he checks himself into a home for the elderly, he befriends theyoung son of the owner. The boy is played by Bill Milner who wasexceptional in "Son of Rambow". His mom is played by Ann-Marie Duffyand she loves her son, but just doesn't have the time and energy todevote to him (or her husband) as she dedicates herself to the tenants.

    The best part of the film is watching Mr Caine and young Milnerinteract. Their time is magical, pun intended. The sad thing is …this is the only part of the film that works. The rest is a bit lameand certainly not up to the standard of "Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont".

    Regardless, the film is worth seeing for the performance of MichaelCaine. One of his best in years and really captures the pain of gettingold and slowly losing one's self.

  5. John DeSando ( from Columbus, Ohio
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    Small films such as "Is Anybody There?" usually aren't there, at leastas far as box office impact. This one may have a chance at some returnbecause of Sir Michael Caine's role as a retirement home denizen in1980's England. Caine infuses the ex-magician with a bit of moviemagic—cynicism baked with pathos and one of the greatest cinema voicesever.

    He teaches an equally eccentric 10 year old boy some tricks, and thelittle one amuses us and Caine with his project to capture the deaththroes and after activity of dying residents.

    That this bleak landscape of death and despair can be lightened bythese two interesting characters is a tribute to the magic of a movieactor and movies themselves, small as both may be next to colossalAmerican blockbusters.

  6. Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    'Is Anybody There?' is a rather depressing little film with MichaelCaine (decrepit and, at first, suicidal) and a creepy little boy (BillMilner from the delightful 'Son of Rambow'). Edward, who's eleven,lives in an old people's home his parents run, and Clarance (Caine) isa retired magician who comes very unwillingly to live there too. Hekeeps his run-down tour van parked in the yard, like the crazy personwho used to camp in Alan Bennett's driveway, and hopes to escape in itsoon. Clarance, who misses his late wife, rages against the dying ofthe light, but he is encountering a lot of humiliations. When he findsEdward has an unhealthy obsession with dying and is tape recording thelast gasps of expiring inmates of the home to capture their ghosts, herealizes the boy is in a worse place than he is. As two outcasts,Edward and Clarance bond. A suicidal old man and a pre-teen pursuer ofghosts: at first, it's almost as self-consciously morbid as 'Harold andMaude.'

    There was much hope that this would be a special film, given itsdirector's history of prize-winning London and New York productions ofMartin McDonagh's 'Pillowman,' a promising (if incomprehensibly Irish)first film, 'Intermission' (with Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy) andhis searing and bold 'Boy A.' This new film is edited nicely: it flitsfrom scene to scene without fanfare. The early scenes seem unpromising,but that's the English attitude, isn't it, that life is pinched andmessy but you make the best of it? The fact is, this is a pretty markedcomedown after 'Pillowman' and 'Boy A.'

    This is an actor's showcase, though. Crowley is a good director and hegets able work from all his cast. Michael Caine's on-screenperformances (he's Sir Michael now) are all master classes in filmacting and he's magnificent as Clarance. Bill Milner is wonderfully dryand snarky and natural. Anne-Marie Duff and David Morrissey are good asEdward's two parents, struggling to deal with the 39-year-old dad'slust for an 18-year-old nurse's aide and to make a go of the home afterjust a year, in the late Eighties. A half dozen choice character actorsare lightly delineated as the main oldsters.

    To state the obvious, a film about a retirement home is a good way totalk about aging, and you can round out your story by having yourcharacters die. They're over the hill: departing this life comesnaturally to them. No plot twists necessary.

    But a film about a retirement home isn't necessarily a bold way to dealwith the hard subject of death. There is a tremendous danger ofdrifting into sentimentality and cuteness. And conventionality. This isthe third little English film at least that I've seen recently about alittle run-down old people's home where they all live together as a bigdysfunctional family. The idea is even more thoroughly developed,without an aging magician or morbid boy, in the Vanessa Redgravevehicle, 'How About You?', which deals with both the group dynamics andthe dying process a bit more memorably. But I remember my mother'sretirement high rise and find these quaint English versions false in awhole lot of ways. The writer of 'Is Anybody There?', Peter Harness,himself grew up in an old people's home. But this is a tough subject,after all, and nobody knows what dying's like till they're way beyondtelling.

    I'm going to give away the ending: Clarance dies. Where the film excelsis in how it makes this a moment of triumph for everyone. It isobviously a release for Clarance: he wanted to "top" himself at theoutset. But he has passed on some good magic tricks to Edward, and alsoconvinced the kid that when you die, you die. So when Clarance gives upthe ghost, to honor his elderly friend Edward gives up his ghostobsession. With that the house cheers up, his mum and dad start havingfun together, and he starts to play soccer; he becomes a real boy.There's a lovely moment when one of the old men gets up and kicks aball around with Edward and another kid–a reminder that someeighty-year-olds can still get frisky. These self-conscious oldstercomedies too often tend to forget that for most of its running time,even old age is about living, not dying.

    US theatrical release date: April 17, 2009.

  7. James Orme from England.
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    Is Anybody There? is a must see for everyone who supports British filmmaking. It is a well acted drama,driven by mixing comedy with the darkundertones of life (and death).

    The film is based around two main characters. Edward,a 10 year oldboy,lives with his parents at the residential home that they run inEast Yorkshire and has a morbid interest in ghosts. His obsession leadshim to believe that he can record the spirit leaving the body aroundthe time of death,so he experiments on some of the homes' residents asthey pass over,the first attempt being on Christmas Day 1986.

    Edward then meets Clarence,a retired magician,played by Michael Cainewith the right mix of anger and exasperation. Clarence is a newresident at the home and simply wants the chance to say sorry to hisdead wife, as his infidelity during their marriage is causing him agreat deal of regret and anguish,but he doesn't even know where she isburied. Initially,Clarence and Edward are at loggerheads but with timethey become good friends.

    Clarences' pain and confusion is conveyed perfectly by Caine with hishead telling him there is no afterlife whilst his heart is telling himthat there is. One scene highlights Clarences' childlike naivety anddesperation when, on Edwards' advice, he tries to make his dead wifeappear by repeating her name in the mirror. On a personal level,thiswas perhaps the most poignant scene in the entire film.

    The film also includes excellent turns from David Morrissey andAnn-Marie Duff as Edwards' troubled parents who are trying to stave offbankruptcy whilst keeping their marriage alive,although Dad doesn'thelp matters when he is caught on one of Edwards' tapes propositioningthe young girl in their employment as he tries to deal with an earlymid life crisis.

    The film successfully weaves the dark realism and finiteness of losinga loved one along with the innocence of those who truly don'tunderstand the meaning of death. For cinema-goers who don't wantsomething too sad,there is humour from all angles including thestraightforward mickey taking of the old and infirm to the desperationof Edwards' father trying to make himself more attractive to the youngfemale employee by having what turns out to be a totally ridiculoushaircut.

    Throw in support performances by names such as Leslie Phillips andThelma Barlow and you have a worthy way of spending an evening at yourlocal cinema for £6.

  8. dazski from United Kingdom
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    What a pure delight this film was.

    Maybe its because I also grew up in the 80's (albeit not in an oldfolks home) that the twinge of nostalgia attached to this film drew mein more than others. The decor was instantly recognisable andreminiscent of my grandparents house!

    I am a stereotypical British Michael Caine fan so I am unashamedlybiased but all that considered I genuinely believe this to be one ofhis shinning moments.

    The script was well structured & the direction natural – I believed inthose characters, in fact I almost felt like I might have met some ofthem a long time ago.

    Funny, touching, charming and yes most definitely a bit sad but sad inthe nicest and most uplifting way possible.

    Was this a comedy, was it a drama??? I'm not sure, what I am sure aboutis that there aren't enough films like this.

    If you like run of the mill Hollywood films you wont like this – if youlike films with a touch of humanity that make you think a little, gosee it – trust me.

  9. from United States
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    We know that Michael Caine is one of Cinema's greatest actors but themovie IS ANYBODY THERE? has secured his place in history because thislatest performance of his is absolutely magical. As a fading magician,Michael Caine plays his character with such… finesse that can onlycome from years of experience and perfecting the art of acting. What asuperb, masterful, extraordinary, and touching portrayal. If he doesn'tget nominated at the next Oscar, then there's something messed up withthe system.

    IS ANYBODY THERE? is a story of an odd friendship between an old manand a young boy but it deals with dying, old age, and death and notquite the same way that as what Benjamin Button did. The differencewith IS ANYBODY THERE is that it's more blunt, instead of going forextravagant visual effects, it relies on simplicity and doesn't hidebehind the bushes, even the humor stems from that.

    Michael Caine plays this retired magician who misses his wife, misseshis great old days of fame and women and riches. Edward is the littleboy whose parents run the nursing house that Clarence lives in. Edwardfeels miserable and hates facing the facts of growing old. Edward,surrounded by old dying people, is fascinated with ghosts and whetheror not those people will still be around to haunt the place afterthey're dead. Clarence, played by child actor Bill Milner who wasentertaining in Son of Rambow, is your typical angry kid who could usea friend, a role model, since his parents are too busy.

    Their first encounter isn't a smooth one but what follows is interestin learning each other's knowledge. Clarence teaches Edward someconstructive skills, in this case, magic.. while Edward teaches himabout supernatural world. Clarence doesn't think of it seriously butwithout secretly he's curious enough to try it on his own just to seeif he could contact his late wife.

    What will happen after we die? Or is the question should be about whatwe should be doing with our lives while we're still breathing?Clarence's presence also indirectly impacted the relationship betweenEdward's parents and how they re-evaluate their marriage as theystruggle daily working at the nursing home. The mom is so caught up inher work that she neglects her husband's needs, the husband is socaught up in complaining that he forgets that both his and his wife'sresponsibility should be focused only on their son, Edward who by theway is so caught up in ghost world that he doesn't connect with hisclassmates. That's the impact that Edward has on them because he wouldsay sorry to his wife if he could relive his life all over again buttime has caught up to him.

    IS ANYBODY THERE? may have morbid issues but it's not depressing. Itoften does comedy at the expense of old people but it doesn't come offtoo rude that it becomes distasteful. What it's trying to accomplish isto remind audience to always be grateful for what you have, the peoplearound you and the present moment. Nothing hurts more than to live withregrets because you didn't do what you should've done long ago. If youdon't get those, then at least watch it for Michael Caine's brilliantphenomenal performance that will leave you in utmost respect for theman –Rama's SCREEN–

  10. hanrahanpm from New York, United States
    30 Mar 2012, 9:49 pm

    I lived in England in the 60's when many of these actors were in theirprime. Here they are 50 years later and still working. They're not abit afraid to act or look their age. What a treat for us and what atreat for young Bill Milner to act with these greats of British filmand theatre. Quite a change from "Intermission" for the director JohnCrowley, but also suitably paced for an older generation. Niceenjoyable film about an old codger and a young boy. Anne Marie Duff hada tiny part (the last scene) in "Notes on a Scandal" and a larger onein a recent Irish film called "Garage." Check it out for understatedacting and writing. David Morrissey played one of the leads in the TVseries "State of Play" which is now a film with Russell Crowe and HelenMirren.

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