A boy whose parents turn their house into a nursing home can be expected to develop an interest in death. Ten year old Edward (“Son of Rambow’s” Bill Milner) is more than interested. He is fascinated. And that is in part because he is terrified. He hides his tape recorder under the bed of a dying resident to see if he can actually hear the sound of the spirit escaping the body and he avidly watches a television show about ghosts to see how he can communicate with the souls of the departed. He is more interested in the dead than he is in the living.
The same can be said for the home’s newest resident, Clarence (Michael Caine), a former magician, who moves into the room previously occupied by the most recent departed, and previously before that by Edward himself. Clarence is reluctant to stay but Edward’s mother (Anne-Marie Duff), out of her kind nature and her desperation to get the 50 quid a week, persuades him to give them a try. Clarence is bitter and bereft and has no interest in making new friends.
These two lonely guys are clearly move-made for each other, but to its credit, this film allows them to be more complicated and less cuddly than the usual feel-good comfort movie. Milner continues to be one of the movie’s most appealing young actors and Caine delivers capably. Their scenes together are nicely acerbic. Director John Crowley allows the story to take its time for most of the film and then seems to speed everything up for the last few scenes, which seem hurried and cluttered and for the first time falls into formulaic patterns. But like Clarence, the movie still has a few tricks up its sleeve.