Is Anybody There?

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Short takes

Not suitable under 13; parental guidance to 14 (themes, disturbing scenes, coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Is Anybody There?
  • a review of Is Anybody There? completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 4 June 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Lacks interest and not suitable due to themes, disturbing scenes and coarse language.
Children aged 13–14 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and coarse language.
Children aged 15 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Is Anybody There?
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and infrequent coarse language
Length: 95 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Edward (Bill Milner) is a 10 year old boy who lives with his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and father (David Morrissey) in the ramshackle nursing home that they run. He is obsessed with the afterlife and desperately wants to know what happens after you die. He has taken to placing tape recorders in the rooms of the residents and spends hours listening to and analysing their last breaths. He tries many varied ways to contact the dead, but all to no avail.
When Clarence (Michael Caine) arrives at the home, after a long life on the road as a magician, he insists that it is just for a little while and that he doesn’t need to be cared for. Indeed, compared to the other patients, who shake constantly, live in alternate realities or can barely speak, Clarence appears to be the last person who needs to be in such a place. But looks can be deceiving. After Clarence attempts to commit suicide, Edward and Clarence strike up an unlikely friendship. Both are unhappy with their lives and are largely misunderstood. But they learn to understand each other. Edward gives Clarence hope about the afterlife and Clarence helps Edward learn to live life in the present as opposed to focussing only on life after death.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death; Suicide; Family breakdown.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Clarence narrowly misses hitting Edward with his van. He screeches to a stop and jumps out of the van screaming at the boy in a threatening rage. Edward runs off.
  • Edward accidentally kicks a ball into Clarence’s van. Clarence lunges out of the van, trying to kick him and threatening to kill him.
  • Edward threw chunks of dirt at Clarence and hit him in the head.
  • Edward’s mum smacks him hard across the head.
  • Two boys at school elbow Edward and shove his bag to the ground.
  • Clarence accidentally chops off a resident’s finger while performing a magic show.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • One woman arrives at the home to see her mother after many years only to learn that she has just fallen down dead.
  • Clarence attempts to kill himself by breathing the exhaust from his van. Edward finds him unconscious and slumped over the steering wheel.
  • Clarence is driving Edward to his storage shed when he looses control of his van. Edward is shouting, trying to get Clarence to swerve away from on-coming traffic, when they crash. Edward is unharmed but much shaken. Clarence is bleeding from the head and extremely disoriented. He bursts into tears. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Children in this age group may be disturbed by the themes of death and suicide.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • An old man tells Edward that when you get old “your prick turns cold and blue” at a holiday luncheon.
  • Edward’s dad leers at Tania, a teenage girl who helps out in the home. He often watches her and her boyfriends through windows and tries to make himself look more like he thinks she would like him to. Eventually he asks her to date him.
  • An old man tells a “joke” to a priest about how a young girl thought she was riding on the crossbar of a bicycle, but was really riding on the “stiffy” of the guy who was pedalling.
  • Clarence tells Edward that the reason his wife left him was that he was a wild, good-looking guy and that he couldn’t keep it in his trousers.
  • Edward hands Clarence a pamphlet about cervical smears.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • One of the residents of the nursing home wanders outside completely naked. Edward’s mum rushes out to wrap a blanket around him.
  • Tania is changing behind a frosted glass door. Edward’s dad watches her as she takes off her shirt. The outline of her bra is visible.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • There is frequent use of cigarettes. On one occasion Clarence offers some to Edward.
  • One of the residents in the home has a drinking problem and has always got a hip flask or a glass of wine.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • “Shit,” “shitty,” “get stuffed,” “old farts,” “bastards,” “bugger off,” “Jesus Christ almighty! Screw you!“ “asshole,” “fucking Christians,” “bunch of pricks,” “sod off,” “He f…ed it up.”

In a nutshell

The main message from this movie is that life, no matter how long you live, is short and that you should make the most of living it to the fullest.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • friendship
  • tolerance
  • forgiveness
  • hard work
  • compassion.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • being unfaithful
  • intruding in the lives of others
  • the treatment of people with dementia or other degenerative diseases.