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In Praise of Slow Film: A Review of Henry Poole is Here

Henry Poole

Henry Poole is sad. For some initially inexplicable reason, which becomes clearer as the story slowly unfolds, he leaves his job, breaks up with his girlfriend, and moves back to his childhood neighborhood. He moves into a small stucco house, with little furniture, and begins to drink and do little more than lay on the bed in his clothes or in a chaise lounge in the backyard. But Henry's planned decline goes awry. A deeply religious neighbor, a kind woman named Esmeralda, claims to see the face of God on the back wall of Henry's house. Although Henry wants to be left alone, she befriends him, as does the single Mom next door and her young daughter who hasn't spoken since her father left home, and the check out girl at the supermarket, and finally the priest who Esmeralda brings to examine the face on the wall.

Henry doesn't believe in the face and is upset by the crowds of people flocking to his backyard. He wants to be left alone. And yet as the story unfolds and Henry feels the love of those around him and witnesses the power of faith, he too begins to change.

This is low-budget but well-cast film with a great heart and not one ounce of cynicism. It is difficult to believe that such a film was well-received at the Sundance Film Festival where the weird and avant-garde reign. Luke Wilson plays a convincing role as Henry, but in reality I found every one of the actors credible, just like people you would expect to meet in the neighborhood.

It's a slow story, and deliberately so. The camera dwells on faces. There is time to get to know people. While Henry doesn't seem so likeable at the beginning, it's not because he's mean, just sad. In fact everyone has some measure of sadness --- Patience, the check out girl; Millie, the little girl who will not speak; Esmeralda, who lost her boyfriend --- and yet everyone comes to hope, experiences positive change by the end of the story. Though serious, there is humor throughout, comedy even in sadness.

This is a movie I still think about, even five days after watching it. It's that good.

The film is rated PG for some language, all from Henry, none of which is gratuitous, the most serious of which is the couple of occasions he takes God's name in vain, all because he is upset that the image has appeared on the side of his house. It is appropriate because, in the end, he is angry at God. There is no violence , nudity, or inappropriate sexual innuendo. Young kids would be bored. Some older kids may appreciate the story, but given that there is little action, I suspect the primary audience is adult.

I highly recommend Henry Poole is Here. It's a story that will stick with you.

Watch the trailer here: