Henry Poole Is Here Reviews
BFFFer -- I so think you would ADORE this one. Review, TBC.
Pellington, first-time screenwriter Albert Torres, and lead actor Luke Wilson all show impressive courage in going against the grain of a ferociously atheist pop culture by openly pondering questions about God and expecting an open-minded, intelligent, non-fundamentalist audience to stay with them.
Wilson plays a lonely man who's just gotten some difficult news and recedes into himself. He buys a non-descript, broken-down house in a disheveled, lower-middle-class corner of greater Los Angeles, where he leads the life of a morose shut-in. One day an image appears on the side of his shabby house, and an older woman who lives next door reads spiritual meaning into it. As a good college-educated atheist, the man of course laughs at her. But soon some inexplicable and powerful things happen that cause him and some other neighbors to start to wonder about the mysterious side of life.
A strong, almost eerie performance from seven-year-old Morgan Lily (a child actor whose career is definitely worth watching) expands the film nicely but does occasionally cause it to border on schmaltz. Wilson's consistent under-statement helps keep things from tipping too far in that direction, as does the nice, non-showy supporting work from Radha Mitchell. "Henry Poole" is recommended to anyone willing to consider the limits of atheist explanations of life.
The movie poster you see in the upper left makes the film seem sunny and light, which is not true at all. It's actually mostly dark and heavy.
Henry Poole moves in to a house in his old neighborhood, to spend what he believes are his remaining days alone. The discovery of a "miracle" by a nosy neighbor ruptures his solitude and restores his faith in life.
Truly extraordinary dramedy about a sad and angry young man (Wilson in arguably his best work to date) who upon learning he is dying, buys a home in his old childhood memory and finds himself at the center of attraction when a mysterious stain appears on his house prompting a relentless next-door- neighbor (the wonderful Barraza) to claim it as a possibly miracle : since the stain looks like Jesus Christ. Added to the mix are Wilson's other next-door-neighbor (ethereally comely Mitchell, also giving a fabulous performance) and her silent daughter (newcomer Lily, a truly adorable and remarkably gifted young actress) whose equally somber lives intermingle with the reluctant new homeowner. Director Mark Pellington does an excellent job avoiding the mawkish and predictable with a splendid script by novice Albert Torres that is one of the best inspirational films I've seen in some time and how the need to make a connection/bond with another human being is overwhelmingly emotionally fulfilling. A small gem of a movie that had me in tears and smiles throughout.
Similarly, I read the synopsis and was wondering if we were talking about the same film.
To me, this film is all about faith, period! Miracles can be in the most mundane things (sometimes we don't even realize that we are experiencing one).
That a man can have his life shattered (by learning that he has an incureable disease) and then, if spite of everything, learns to cherish the simple things around him, like love and faith, is at the crux here; and as such it works, though it becomes a bit too formula and pat.
There are many nice touches here, but some missteps as well (the odd camera angles trying to show a man outside of his surroundings is a nice touch, but incongrous with the rest of the film). I also felt that the music video aspect was misplaced here, seeming to be filler that only supported what was already being shown, or was a cheap way of "telling" the audience what was going on.
The "6 months earlier" segue was childish and very tv movie - totally out of place here, while the conclusion didn't really hold any revelation (hmm, he wasn't sick after all, just misdiagnosed - kind of a cop out, but...).
I also found it disconcerting that the single mom next door seemed to never be working - what was up with that? did hubby walk out and leave her a settlement?
However, there are still enough moments of real truth here that propel this film away from rotten. The Hispanic neighbor was a wonderfully played role, and the interplay between Wilson and the single mom felt real (as were his sentiments, not really openly put out there, that getting into a relationship with a dying man was something to avoid).
The point then? Think positive until the end, regardless of what is or isn't going to happen to you...I guess...because it doesn't matter anyway. So try not be too bummed when the shit hits the fan, 'cus who knows, there might be a really hot chick living next door to you!
Well, in conclusion, if there's one thing I learned from 'Henry Poole is Here' it's that not only is everything sexier in slow motion, but it's also more deep and spiritual.
Henry has moved into a neighborhood where he is unknown only to find that his neighbor, Esperanza, sees the "face of Christ" in the new stucco on his house. Insisting that it is a water stain, unable to remove it with bleach, and equally unable to keep Esperanza away, he agrees to let the local priest bring in experts for evaluation.
Meanwhile, we discover why Henry is hiding from the world and see him pulled into interaction despite himself with his neighbors. Henry provides the skeptical, reasonable voice of the world, wanting rational explanations and refusing to believe in ... "don't say that word!" ... miracles because those just don't happen. This provides not only many humorous situations but poignant moments as well. As the movie progresses we are aching to know if the "face of Christ" is genuine or only a water stain. Equally, we are aching for Henry.
In the most basic sense, the overall message of this movie could be that no man is an island, as Henry is unable to avoid people constantly reaching out to him in friendly interest. Those people spark a transformation that Henry can not possibly imagine as he continually attempts to bat them away. We do not see every situation resolved but the sense that resolution lies in the future is clearly present by the end of the film. The story overall is a human, interesting look at hopelessness and faith, isolation and love, memories and future.
There are some script flaws. There could have been more plot lines and a bit less telegraphing of some of the story. The flashbacks are awkwardly jumps in time and some story points move unrealistically quickly. However, it does not make claims to be something it is not. This is a little, refreshing, quirky movie with heart. I have watched many simple movies such as The Castle and Eagle vs. Shark with exactly those same qualities that have stuck with me for a very long time. This movie is no less.
Here is a no-doubt-about-it faith message that was delivered interestingly, and with realistic characters, using subtle methods to enhance the story. Predictable in some ways, it made us think along the way, didn't spoon feed us everything, and was far superior to Fireproof in technique and delivery. It speaks about faith and prayer in the way that normal people do, without stopping to deliver speeches about "accepting the Lord." As Tom says, "You can lead a horse to water, but you probably can't beat it to water."
An indie-style movie with a simple but well delivered story, it is a lesson in how to deliver messages when you're not already preaching to the choir, as "Christian" movies are wont to do. Excellent acting enhanced the movie greatly. For example, I have never seen George Lopez in anything but broad comic roles, which were painful, to tell the truth. Here he does a subtle, low key delivery as the very real seeming neighborhood priest who is called in to give judgment on the "appearance."
We appreciated the acknowledgment that it is possible to have a woman look beautiful and modest while dressing like a normal person. (No stereotypical "sensible" pumps, no frumpy blouse and skirt sets that your mother might wear, and no ugly hair styles ... yes, "Fireproof," I'm lookin' at you all the way here.) Equally, there is no immodest behavior although everyone's behavior is entirely normal. I particularly enjoyed the device of using the tape recorder to both engage Henry with another person and remind him and the audience of key points. As well, we both appreciated the sequence informing of us Henry's past while he is at the river. Artfully and subtly done, especially in a movie with this overall message.
The symbolism likewise was there for us if we wanted it but didn't intrude on our viewing. Take note of characters' names, keeping in mind Esperanza is Spanish for "hope." Equally, remember that a cross never shows up in a movie, even as a shadow, without the filmmaker deliberately placing it there (kudos to Tom who caught this one in the movie). As a larger example: Henry's house is empty, barren, dark, and bleak. A neighbor's backyard, likewise, is in stages of raw disorder, although their house is warm and inviting. We were shocked every time Henry left his home and we saw the neighborhood full of lush, flourishing yards and homes. The contrast between Henry and other people is shown to us thus to make an overall impression that sinks in at a level we did not have to have a spoken declaration to understand. This is not all but we will let it unfold for you.
Well done and definitely recommended for those interested in what they would do if the "face of Christ" showed up on the wall of their house.