Henry Poole Is Here (2008)

Rated: PG for thematic elements and some language.
Length: 99 minutes
Grade: BB+AA=A-
Budget: Unknown, maybe $15-20 million
Box Office: $2 million (2 U.S.)

Written by: Albert Torres (First script)
Directed by: Mark Pellington (Mothman Prophecies, Arlington Road)
Starring: Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell, Adriana Barraza, George Lopez, and Morgan Lily.
Summary: A mysterious and private man buys a house in the neighborhood of his youth and then suffers the indignity of his Catholic neighbor believing the face of Christ is appearing on his exterior wall, which leads to much undue attention.

Entertainment Value: B
This is slow, almost painfully slow, and if I hadn’t had it recommended highly to me by a good friend, I might not even have watched the whole thing. But the movie itself is wonderful, although I totally understand why it only m ade 2 million. It didn’t have a lot of comic moments, it’s about some very serious subjects, and (this is the most important part) the Christian community never knew this film existed so as to support it as they should have.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity A, Violence A, Language B
Henry is an alcoholic, which is a theme in the movie. Otherwise, the only issues here ware with some cursing, particularly religious cursing. PG is clearly the right rating for this movie with adult themes, but this is about as light a PG as you can get. Kids will neither enjoy nor understand this, so it’s more for older audiences anyhow. But there’s no one who’s old enough to benefit from this movie who shouldn’t be allowed to see it.

Significant Content: A (almost an A+)
Okay, here’s the thing, this is a movie about skepticism versus faith wrapped around a plot which is profoundly based on the Gospel. And, as you will suspect, faith wins in the end, not by persuading skepticism of the truth, but by overwhelming skepticism with true Christian redemption and healing. I hesitate to tell you more, only because I want you to see it for yourselves.

Artistic/Thought Value: A (almost an A+)
The only thing keeping this from an A+ was the slightly low entertainment value, meaning that it’s just a bit too difficult to approach and endure all the way until the payoff. If they had found a way to entice us a bit more, I’d give it an A+. Even so, this is a brilliantly crafted movie which slowly develops and reveals even its own premise. And the clash between good-neighbor-atheist and intrusive-but-lovable-Catholic is brilliantly played out.

Discussion Questions:
~Everything Henry does seems to scream that he wants to be left alone. How is he representative of people in our modern culture? What is Christ’s answer to such people?
~Why does Millie tape record conversations? What symbolism is this being used to represent? How is her pain a reinforcement of the condition of our culture?
~What image of clergy is represented here? What does this movie seem to be saying about Catholicism? If Henry is reluctant to believe this seemingly miraculous event, how do you think Protestants who believe in miracles but are otherwise anti-Catholic (Pentecostals, e.g.) will receive this movie?
~What aspects of Henry’s strange behavior eventually make sense to you? Why doesn’t he negotiate the house price? Why doesn’t he want it fixed up? Why do we keep seeing his car with the unrepaired broken windows?
~Why is Henry so motivated to not believe in the miracle? Why is Esperanza so willing to believe in it? What is the driving force behind his skepticism?
~Can you identify some events in your life that you choose to interpret as evidence of God’s activity but which could be interpreted by someone else differently? Are there any which you have refused to acknowledge as coming from God?
~Esperanza is presented as nosy, gossipy, and moderately obnoxious but still very loving and wise. Which sort of neighbors would you rather have, ones like her or ones like Henry? Which sort of neighbor does our culture seem to hold up as an ideal? Would it be unfair to call him a libertarian?
~In how many ways can you compare the final sequence of events with the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is this a Calvinistic movie? What are the effects on people and society which this incursion of Christ effects?
~At one point, Henry tells Esperanza that the only reason she wants him to believe is because that would tend to reduce her own deeply hidden fears that her faith isn’t actually right. He finds her professions to be a power play and a desperate effort to suppress her own doubts. What do you think of these comments? What is the difference between a person who is actually sure of his faiths and someone who wants to believe but has some real doubts?
~If God is really behind the miracle, what is His plan? Are you saddened by the seemingly temporary nature of His activity?
~One of the questions the movie asks is whether hope can save you. What does the movie seem to be saying? What do you say?
~What is the function of the title? Why do people create graffiti? Is there any way to establish our permanence as beings outside of a relationship with God?
~Why do you think the director refuses to give us (the audience) a clear shot of the image? What other elements of frustration from lack of explanations or access to information are used in this movie? What is their purpose?
~Does it affect your view of this movie to know that the director lost his wife in a sudden tragedy and had to care for his toddler girl by himself?

Overall Grade: A-
Just as my friend said, this is a wonderful movie. If you watch it and don’t quite see why I’d say so, feel free to email me. I’ve avoided giving away some insights in this review specifically because I didn’t want to spoil the plot of the movie for you.

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