Henry Poole Is Here
Distributed by: Lakeshore Entertainment
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some time ago, I reviewed the soundtrack of a Lakeshore Entertainment film called Henry Poole Is Here. As I researched the movie, I found the storyline to be rather intriguing. I filed this in the back of my mind for the next time I went to the video store to rent movies and so, this past weekend, I arrived home from the video store with a copy of Henry Poole Is Here happily tucked under my arm.
When Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) moves into a tract house in a small suburban Los Angeles neighborhood, he is a mystery. The house is in a state of repair, yet he decides that he doesn’t want anything fixed. When he goes to the local supermarket, his purchases consist of alcoholic beverages and frozen pizza. Attempts at conversation with Poole result in one word answers and grunts. All he wants is to be left alone.
But when Esperanza (Adriana Barazza), his neighbor, discovers a watermark shaped to look like the face of Jesus on the side of his new home, Henry Poole becomes something of a neighborhood celebrity. Henry scoffs at the idea that this watermark is anything but a flaw in the stucco of his house. Yet, he can’t deny that some strange things have been happening. For example, Millie (Morgan Lily), the six-year-old girl next door, who hasn’t spoken since her father left a year ago, touches the wall and suddenly begins to speak. Henry assumes that Millie was just ready to talk, but when the half-blind grocery clerk, Patience (Rachel Seiferth), touches the wall and can suddenly see, Henry finds it hard to deny that something strange is going on.
However, Henry can’t bring himself to believe that he is witnessing a miracle taking place. In fact, he has been on rather bad terms with God ever since Henry was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He came to this neighborhood - the neighborhood he lived in as a child - to die, because he believed that the times spent here were the last times he ever experienced happiness. Now, all he wants is to die in peace, but this watermark on the wall and the implication as to what it means are putting a damper on his wishes. Can Esperanza, Millie, Patience and his other neighbors bring hope to a man whose situation is hopeless?
I was surprised to discover how deeply touching this film was. When I had seen the promos, I had just assumed that this was a drama with some comedic moments. However, Henry Poole Is Here is a film that teaches its viewers to value life and to never lose hope despite the roadblocks we may encounter along the way.
I loved the chemistry between the actors in this film. It was easy to believe that what I was seeing was a small suburban neighborhood with a bunch of neighbors struggling with their inner demons without ever letting on that they are losing hope until they see this “miracle” on another neighbor’s wall. Adrianna Barazza is especially enjoyable in her role as Esperanza Martinez, the nosey neighbor who knows everything that goes on in her neighborhood. It was surprising to see George Lopez in a serious role as the priest of the church Esperanza attends. I also enjoyed the chemistry between Radha Mitchell (Millie’s mother) and Luke Wilson. I’ve seen Radha Mitchell in several science fiction films, but I truly enjoyed her here as a young mother worried about her daughter and thoroughly intrigued by the next door neighbor who has helped her daughter to speak again. I would love to see her in more dramatic roles such as these.
I also like the clever insertions of names signifying hope throughout the film. Esperanza translates from Spanish to mean hope. Without Patience, there is no hope - the two are intertwined. The appearance of Dawn brings about hope as does every dawning of a new day. Even the name Millie means something in this film. The name means brave strength, something one must have if they are ever to find hope.
There are also visual moments in the film signifying hope such as the watermark, the scene in which we see fluffy white clouds in a clear blue sky, the scene in which we witness the first light of the dawning of a new day. It’s clever little things like the meaning of the characters’ names and visual aides in the film that set this movie apart.
The DVD version of this film features a documentary about the creation of this film which if filled with interesting tidbits about the filming location, the way the cast was chosen, the directing style of Mark Pellington, the storyline and what it meant to each of the actors and the ways in which the actors enjoyed working with one another. This fifteen minute documentary lends a great deal of insight into the creation of the film as well as the meaning of the storyline.
To tell the truth, I enjoyed Henry Poole Is Here a great deal more than I ever expected to. The story was intriguing and easy to relate to. After all, there are times in our lives when we all lose hope and need a shove in the right direction, whether that shove is a sign of God or the gentle proddings of someone who cares about us. Henry Poole Is Here is an incredibly enjoyable film with an important message that anyone could relate to and learn from.