Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Movie Review - Henry Poole Is Here

When I read the synopsis of Henry Poole is here on my weekly travels to the New Release section of Netflix, I totally ignored it. It sounded preachy and schmaltzy. A cheap gimmick to pull heart strings.
My mom rented it and before I brought it back to get the store for her for the free rental I figured I didn't have anything to lose by watching it.
I'm actually glad I did. Henry Poole Is Here is about a man who returns to his hometown to buy the house his family lived in because he is dying and is trying to find some sort of self discovery before he does. The current owner of the house turns him down and he buys a house nearby situated next to a nosy neighbor who thinks she sees the face of God in the bad paint job on the side of the house.
The movie details the depression and dread that Henry (Luke Wilson) feels as his impending death creeps in closer, while trying to maintain as little contact to the outside world as possible. The thing is, if he wanted no contact, he would shut himself in. The fact of the matter is, Poole continues to hang in the outside recesses of his new found home knowing full well the nosey neighbor is going to bother him and that the mute little girl next door is tape recording his conversations.
You know that Poole hasn't completely given up on life but doesn't know how to reach out. The reach comes in the form of the miracle on the wall. It's pretty predictable from front to back. For me though, I could identify with that sense of dread. In my teenage years, I felt like I was dying on the inside. There was this doom of this big cold world crashing in on me and swallowing me whole and so instead of facing it head on, I retreated to my own world wanting to just die instead. And so just as I finally reached out and let the world in and discover that what's important is the here and now, so does Poole. Little by little, and at the same time, he becomes skeptical about what he believes and rejects that those thoughts of a spiritual healing could be real. Whether they are or not is not the point. The point is that the miracle of life is just being alive and realizing the potential of what you can do before you squander your life away and wither away and die.
Helpful too was the soundtrack. I've become a huge fan of modern folk and the songs by Ben Harper, et al, during the less talky moments were also enjoyable.
As I said, overall HPIH is pretty predictable but touching nonetheless. I've become less of a cynic as life has passed. Passing the film up would have been perfectly fine because sentiment just for the sake of sentiment, let alone with religious overtones is not my bag. But as I've become less cynical, I've discovered that I can take a movie like this and just take the elements that are important to me with me. Just as a spaceship would be an incredulous idea so too is the idea of a healing wall. I don't think aliens have ever entered into our stratusfere but Mars Attacks is still a fun movie, so even as an agnostic, I found myself taking the journey with Poole to discover that even if God really didn't have anything to do with all the "miracles" happenings surrounding his misery, perhaps he was responsible for his own destiny rather than waiting for life to take it's course.

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