Henry Poole Is Here, An Uplifting Quasi-Spiritual Tale


Henry Poole is dying. Diagnosed with an unspecified fatal disease, Poole (Luke Wilson) retreats into the numbing sunniness of suburban Los Angeles, buying a cruddy house and waiting until his daily diet of doughnuts and liquor eventually does him in. Directed by Mark Pellington (taking a break from thrillers like Arlington Road), Henry Poole Is Here tells the uplifting quasi-spiritual tale of how Poole’s plan of going out Leaving Las Vegas–style fails thanks to a beautiful divorcée neighbor (Radha Mitchell) and a mysterious stain on his house that resembles Christ’s face and dispenses the occasional miracle. While his performance as a despondent atheist who learns to live and love is affecting in a low-key way, it’s fun to interpret the soppy Henry Poole Is Here as his sincere attempt to confront the post-adolescent male angst that his cinematic buddies usually laugh off. But Pellington applies his message—the necessity of hope—a trifle thickly over the proceedings, treating the Christ image’s magical powers with such reverence that you’re almost set up to expect an M. Night Shyamalan third-act switcheroo. What you’re left with instead is a film that could have used some of the genuine intrigue of Pellington’s thrillers to help offset the increasingly doe-eyed narrative.