USA Today - 08/20/2008
"Anchored by Luke Wilson's engaging performance, POOLE is often affecting....[With] material that Hollywood has shied away from: the nature of faith and the existence of miracles."
Director Mark Pellington (THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES) wrings a miracle from a stucco wall in HENRY POOLE IS HERE, a kind, minimalist tale of finding faith where you least expect it. Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) is a dying man with a mission to spend his final days alone. He relocates to a sparse home in a rundown suburb and makes fast friends with a stash of vodka bottles, but the solitude just won't stick; every neighbor on the block wants to befriend the newly arrived curmudgeon. Most persistent is Esperanza (Adrianna Barrazza, BABEL), an energetic woman who comes to Henry's house to salve her own tragic connection to it, but stays when she sees a stain on the wall that appears to be the face of Jesus. Despite Henry's pleas (and angry missives) to the contrary, word of the miracle spreads, and the solitude-seeking Henry is soon under siege: Esperanza brings by her priest (played by George Lopez); recently divorced Dawn (Radha Mitchell) shows up with Millie, her silently emotive little girl (Morgan Lilly); and even a prying grocery store clerk makes a visit to the world's least likely shrine. With each passing pilgrim, the conversation about hope and the renewing properties of belief grows louder, until even Henry cannot resist being moved. He may not yet accept Jesus, but he just may begin to accept the message of love.
What Pellington leaves ambiguous about the "miracle" of the stain he makes up for with a resounding celebration of the miracle of human connection and the uplifting power of compassion. All the characters in HENRY POOLE IS HERE have pasts that could lead them to drink themselves into an early grave, but in the end, they each mine their misery for deep stores of faith in humanity.
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