6:00 PM, 12th September, 2009
The Whitaker family meet the minimum standard of eccentricity we demand of English aristocrats, and are a judicious a mix of poisonous and lovable, with the mother (Thomas) being the only pure example of the former, and the father (Firth) the only pure example of the latter. One day they get a telegram announcing that the youngest son (Barnes) has ((ndash)) in the space of a month ((ndash)) met and fallen in love with a young widow (Biel), who has all manner of objectionable properties, such as being American. When he brings this mystery woman home we find she's lovely ((ndash)) undoubtedly the best thing that will ever happen to him ((ndash)) and partly for this very reason, most of the family declares all-out war on her. But she does have a few allies: the father; the dry-witted (although this is the only sense in which he can be said to be dry) butler; and more strangely, the woman her husband threw over to marry her. You'll notice I'm not sure if I can number her husband himself among the list of allies. Nor is she.
I'll admit there's sometimes an uncertainty of tone that makes some scenes play awkwardly. When the film knows it wants to be a comedy, it's entertaining, if not quite sparkling; when it knows it wants to be a drama, it's better still. That it doesn't always know which it wants is a minor fault I can easily forgive in something so charming.
8:00 PM, 12th September, 2009
From the producers of Little Miss Sunshine and Harry Potter we have Is Anybody There? This is a film set in an English town in the 1980s, and is about Edward (Milner), a young boy who grows up at Lark Hall, a retirement home run by Edward's parents. Edward is a bit of a loner, but being no stranger to death, Edward develops an interest in the afterlife and spends his spare time trying to find evidence of it. Clarence (Caine), a retired magician, who is in the early stages of dementia, reluctantly takes up residence at Lark Hall. As time progresses the two form an unlikely friendship that eventually encourages Edward to come out of his shell and helps Clarence come to terms with his past and with the death of his wife.
Although there exists an underlying melancholy that stems from the film's bleak backdrop, the film exudes a warmth similar to that in Little Miss Sunshine. The humour in the film is pleasant and light and melts beautifully in with the story, the characters and the backdrop. Both Caine and Milner deliver superb performances in this beautifully shot film, which is sure to evoke a wide range of emotions.