Somewhere in the guidelines of Britain’s National Lottery, which partly funds the UK Film Council (and thus nearly every British film you’ve seen for the last decade), it must be written that no film will receive backing if it does not include at least one of the following: an adorable little boy; a score by former Divine Comedy composer/arranger Joby Talbot; a fond but miserablist depiction of England’s recent past; a venerable actor whose first name is “Sir.” It even seems that a sharp a social commentator as Shane Meadows is not exempt from these by-laws: a country whose principal cinematic exports used to be crafty spy thrillers, various Shakespeareana, disproportionately well-acted Hammer schlock, and Victorian costume romances now seems to be shipping over a limitless stock of grim yet coy bildungsromans featuring likeable little lads, jaunty music, and the chilly charms of pre-New Labor, pre-EU Britain.
Is Anybody There?, from television writer Peter Harness and Irish theater and television director John Crowley, continues this trend without any great innovation with the story (scored by Talbot) of an adorable boy growing up in the Southeast in the relentlessly dreary 1980s (pointlessly recreated with gag-ready fashions and haircuts and a glimpse of Back to the Future). But at the very least it does so properly—the child is Bill Milner of Hammer & Tongs’ smart and affectionate Son of Rambow (which out-classed Gondry’s rather offhand Be Kind Rewind almost the minute that film was released), and the “Sir” involved is Maurice Micklewhite, a.k.a. Sir Michael Caine.
Click here to read the rest of Leo Goldsmith’s review of Is Anybody There?.