‘Henry Poole is Here’ – Spiritually bare

‘Henry Poole is Here’ – Spiritually bare

henry-poole is here

Film critics, audiences and religious groups alike failed to support “Henry Poole is Here” en masse, that rare film which dabbled in spirituality.

So what gives?

While many were moved by “The Passion of the Christ” and the micro-indie “Fireproof,” “Poole” didn’t earn the respect of the more spiritually minded movie goers.

And with good reason, since noble intentions shouldn’t be enough to give any of the above groups reason to embrace a warmed over sermon pretending to be a moving screen drama.

Luke Wilson, up until now the less intriguing of the Wilson boys, stars as Henry, a man who appears to have thrown in the towel on his own life. He buys a home without haggling on the price and sets up camp there, choosing a few vodka bottles and his own misery for companionship.

His depression gets interrupted by a nosy neighbor (“Babel’s” Adriana Barraza) who sees the spitting image of the Lord in a water stain on the side of Henry’s house.

The stain starts drawing  a crowd, from a local priest (an effective George Lopez) to his neighbor’s daughter who likes to tape neighborhood conversations with an old-school recorder.

Eventually, Henry opens up enough to get to know the girl’s mom, Dawn (Radha Mitchell), a woman who stirs something within his battered heart.

“Poole” begins with a simple but arresting premise, and director Mark Pellington (“Arlington Road”) coaxes beautiful visuals from his limited settings. It’s hard to believe how striking a bland suburban tract can look on film.

Wilson might be a poor choice to anchor such a mood piece, but he stretches beyond his normal skill set to make Henry someone worth following. What Wilson can’t do is navigate around an unlikely screen romance – would a stunner like Dawn really pursue a sad sack like Henry? – and an ending which goes precisely where you fear it might.

“Henry Poole is Here” offers a novel spin on the healing power of spirituality but it didn’t have a prayer of gaining the adulation of either religious or secular audiences.

(Photo: Luke Wilson and Radha Mitchell share a candlelit pizza dinner in “Henry Poole is Here.”)

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

RoncoNo Gravatar June 1, 2009 at 2:31 am

I guess I wanted the on-screen romance to work between Henry and Dawn, and it seemed that they were gaining each others respect, but the lack of tension and resolution did finally put the kabosh on credibility.

I’m not sure about the lack of interest from the religious audience (however that’s defined.) Perhaps marketing the film with some indication that The Faithful are pictured sympathetically would have helped – it seems like the studios don’t have much experience at that.

Even though this film touched on a mystical event which might say much more about our psychology than anything, I liked the fact that Henry was pushed and prodded by his neighbors to consider an improvement in his existence beyond the misery he’d trapped himself within. I’m pretty sure my brothers and sisters in Christ would appreciate it. Perhaps the film asks too much of an audience?

LesliNo Gravatar October 5, 2009 at 5:24 pm

If you enjoyed the Henry Poole the first time around, or even didn’t – I encourage you to check out the recently released family edition. I absolutely loved this movie! It was such a great story about a real life guy who was struggling with his faith and accepting it. This is something that I’ve been struggling with myself for the past couple of years. It was such an encouragement to see this played out. And it’s really cool that I’ve found a site, http://www.henrypoolebelieves.com. Right now it looks like they are giving away 10 copies of the movie for free. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, or even if you have, you could always give it to a friend, but it’s definitely worth checking out!

LukeNo Gravatar October 13, 2009 at 3:28 am

Lesli – thanks for the update on this new version of the film. Our family decided to check it out this weekend and we all really enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend it to other families looking for a PERFECT film for a FAMILY movie night…the website you referred to was helpful in our decision as well. Well worth the time! Thanks again.

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