Reviews

Henry Poole is Here

Todd R. Ramlow

Your faith and your patience won't fare well for sitting through the slow-moving, lackluster Henry Poole is Here.


Henry Poole is Here

Director: Mark Pellington
Cast: Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell, Adriana Barraza, George Lopez, Cheryl Hines, Richard Benjamin
Distributor: Anchor Bay
MPAA rating: PG
Studio: Overture Films
First date: 2008
US Release Date: 2008-08-15 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

Henry Poole is Here is an object lesson in how people "cling to guns or religion" to cope with individual hardship and disadvantage. In the film, if not in the communities so affronted by Barack Obama's controversial comment, the denizens of a just-this-side-of-run-down L.A. suburb are desperate to cling to something to make sense of their lives, and religious experience will do fine. Just so, these down-and-outers participate, willingly or skeptically, in mass religious hysteria when they come to believe that the water stain on a stucco wall is a miraculous image of Christ.

The story begins with the arrival of Henry Poole (Luke Wilson). His strangeness is cast initially in terms of real estate: he doesn't haggle over the price of his new house or even allow his agent (Cheryl Hines) to do so on his behalf. When he moves in, he brings precious little furniture or belongings, and rebuffs the neighborhood gossip Esperanza's (Adriana Barraza) overtures towards conviviality.

Henry’s secret (he's dying of an unnamed disease) is none too difficult to discern, as he repeatedly, "cryptically," refers to the fact that he doesn't need to fix up the place or get more furniture, as he "won’t be here for that long." Henry hasn't just come to the neighborhood to die, though. We discover that despite his protestations and pronounced atheism, he is really desperately seeking some "meaning" in his life and death. Henry is, then, ripe for some good old-fashioned evangelical conversion.

Lucky thing he's found his way to this particular neighborhood. Esperanza is the devout Latina who "discovers" the miracle. When Henry is presented by Esperanza with Christ's visage on his house's exterior, he insists all he sees is a "water stain from a lousy stucco job." Esperanza counters that he isn't looking hard enough. Looking hard enough and wanting to see, wanting to believe in something bigger than oneself, is the essence of Esperanza's (and the movie's) faith, and it is to Henry's great detriment that he can't shed himself of his secular ways, despite the mounting evidence that what is going on is a "true" miracle and despite Epseranza's anguished query, "Mr. Poole, don't you believe in God!?"

While it might sound like a spoof of evangelicism akin to Brian Dannelly's Saved! (2004), Henry Poole is Here is dreadfully earnest in delivering its message of Christian redemption -- earnest and clichéd. One of Henry's ready-to-believe neighbors, Dawn (Radha Mitchell), has a traumatized daughter, Millie (Morgan Lily), who hasn't spoken since her daddy left the family. On touching the stucco-wall Christ, her speech is restored. Funny how these things work out: Millie's admiration of her new father-figure Henry drives him to confront the past demons of his own dysfunctional family. And don't forget the checkout clerk at the local grocery store, whose name is named Patience (Rachel Seiferth); it's a virtue, don't 'cha know?

Your faith and your patience, however, likely won't fare as well for sitting through the slow-moving, lackluster Henry Poole is Here. If only Henry had clung to guns instead of religion, the movie might have at least provided an action sequence.

1

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.