Most helpful positive review
57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2009
Edward is fed up. Stuck in a run down retirement home run by his parents in the mid 80's he finds his room being occupied by wrinklies who are not long for this world. Young Edward helps pass the time by recording the old 'uns sleeping in the hope he will catch one dying and thus find out what happens when we die. Into the home comes grumpy old curmudgeon Clarence,(Caine), who takes a dislike to just about everyone but eventually takes Edward under his wing. Clarence was a magician and it's through his sleight of hand tricks and magic show that he helps Edward see the bigger picture, stop worrying about death and in return Edward helps him face his own end.
This manages to avoid all the usual problems that come with this type of film. Theres no mawkishness, this is really pretty grim stuff, every laugh,(and theres a lot), is counterbalanced by a sad moment. For a change we are not bombarded by an endless soundtrack of 'music of the era' but rather a melancholy saw whines away and lends a very grim atmosphere.
Caine is up there with the best when he gets a script he likes. He is totally convincing as the lonely old man, regretting his past so much that he is fighting the inevitable end his rapidly worsening dementia is swiftly bringing. He swings from old grump with a quick blast of "bugger off!" to reaching out to help Edward to lost and bewildered seamlessly and with ease. Understated and yet a commanding presence in every scene he is in. Bill Milner as Edward does a great job of keeping up with his illustrious acting partner as he lends believability to his fed up but feisty boy trying to get to grips with his life. The two work together very well and at no point can you see either of them 'acting' it's all very natural.
They are well supported by Anne-Marie Duff & David Morrissey as Edwards struggling mum & dad. No great histrionics here just a normal couple trying to keep their heads above water and making mistakes. Duff is particularly good as the mum, a very sympathetic character who is trying to hold everything together. There's a nice cameo performance from Leslie Phillips too.
This manages to balance laugh out loud moments with grim realities very well and although the atmosphere always remains quite dark it's not overdone.
The picture is fine with a slightly washed-out effect to the colours adding a sense of atmosphere. Sound is all about dialogue which is clear and well centred.
The extras are a bit sparse, just a collection of short interviews which are chopped up to make them seem longer, but give some insight into how the actors felt about their roles. Caine in particular was quite clearly very happy to have been involved and is well worth listening to. It makes a change to hear interviews that don't see the actors all gushing about each other in the usual sickening self-congratulatory manner that usually accompanies a film.
This funny film remains well grounded in reality and is blessed with a light hand from the directors chair, some very funny lines and a top notch performance by Caine in amongst fine work by those around him.