Henry Poole is Here

Hope does not always come in forms we expect or can explain. Sometimes the face of Jesus must appear in a stain on a stucco house.  Other times, the house literally has to fall on a person to wake them up.  It is no mistake that words for hope, trust, and faith are so closely aligned with each other in religious frameworks: each is dependent on a world beyond our own.  It is this outside world that we cannot see, that we cannot explain, that invades inside our world.

Hope can come in many forms, but always from outside ourselves.  Luke Wilson stars in a movie to ponder just such an idea: Henry Poole Is Here. The inexplicable occurs to give hope to the hopeless.  Full of Christian imagery and truly caring believers, Henry is altered when he is forced to confront that which he cannot explain.  Coke-bottle glasses worn by the grocery store check out girl are unnecessary after touching the stained house wall.  Mute no more, a child next door speaks; a result of the same.  Church-goers line up around the house because they believe what they cannot describe may transform what they cannot change.  Henry himself has been diagnosed with an undivulged illness.  Believing his own death to be imminent, “It doesn’t matter” and “I won’t be here very long” are phrases Henry uses to deflect attention away from commitments, away from people, away from life.

Characters enliven the tale.  The won’t-take-no-for-an-answer next door neighbor (Adriana Barraza), the Catholic priest (George Lopez), Millie whose eyes mesmerize (Morgan Lilly), Dawn (Rahda Mitchell) the romantic seeing inside Henry’s shell, and the cashier (Rachel Seiferth) all add flavor to a sweet story.

Albert Torres wrote the original screenplay for Henry Poole. After failed attempts at penning scripts in Hollywood, Torres quit trying.  He changed course.  Two years later he realized his “undefined sadness” was because he was not writing.  “Rather than write a movie I thought I could sell or one I thought others would like, I wrote a movie I wanted to see. I emerged from a desperate time, looking for a little hope and Henry Poole was born.”[1] After suffering the devastating death of his wife, Mark Pellington created a film to reflect upon the realities of life lived after loss.[2] Henry Poole Lives Here is an example of reflection leading to hope.

Both Pellington and Torres maintain that the movie is not “pushy” about faith.  References to Jesus’ face, miracles, and Catholicism are simply to move the story along.  Henry Poole indeed succeeds without preaching.  But there is no mistaking a movie which depends on its most prominent character, Who is invisible, other-worldly, unexplained but always there.

Rated PG for a few uses of profane language and adult situations.

A positive view of The Church and Christians is always nice to see.  Mark teaches at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, IN


[1] http://www.moviehole.net/200815721-caffeinated-clint-henry-poole-is-here

[2] John Anderson.  “After a Devastating Loss, A New Subtext.” New York Times 10 August 08: AR9. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/movies/10ande.html retrieved 27 January 09.

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