Starring: Michael Caine, Bill Milner, David Morrissey, Anne-Marie Duff, Leslie Phillips, Sylvia Syms, Linzey Cocker
Directed by: John Crowley
Synopsis: 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.
Back around Christmas time I was watching a documentary about Michael Caine on TV. It was going through all his classic performances that we all know, and then right near the end mentioned this film. I hadn’t heard of it before so checked on the WWW to see what it was about. The synopsis above does a good as any to describe the film. I found it to be one of those typically British films, full of heart and working class wonder set in a different decade (the eighties), reminiscent of the likes of Kes. You know, full of characters going through a crisis, but ones you want to root for.
Michael Caine turns in a fantastic (near career best maybe) performance as Clarence the retired magician who is suffering from dementia and a broken heart. He is old, bitter and resentful for how life has panned out. On the flip side, young Edward (Son of Rambow’s Bill Milner) is fed up of living in a retirement home, with no friends except the ghosts he tries to record. His parents are clearly not in love, proved by his father’s lusting over the young employee who does nothing to discourage him. When Clarence and Edward meet, it is hate at first sight, but gradually they start to build a friendship that is rewarding and touching.
Michael Caine pitches up looking more like he did as Scrooge in a Muppet Christmas Carol than anything else. He is full of anger and rage and he plays it brilliantly. Most people say Caine can only play one role, and that is Michael Caine, and whilst that is true to a degree, they should watch this to change their minds. There are some scenes with real emotional heft in them, and likewise some fantastically funny scenes too. The fashions and haircuts are almost a character themselves, especially David Morrissey’s shell-suit, ‘tache and mullet.
The film is full of sentimental moments about growing old, death, loneliness and more besides, but it never wallows in it, and there is always a light moment around the corner to perk you up again. Being that it is set in a rest home, it is kind of reminiscent of Ricky Gervais’ sitcom Derek, although far superior in my opinion.
Other than Caine, the standout’s are young Bill Milner and Anne Marie Duff who plays his mother. Some of the old people are funny too, including Leslie Phillips behaving as, well, Leslie Phillips!