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.”)