Sometimes miracles don't have to be big or obvious to happen -- they can just be a nudge in the right direction.
That seems to be the message of "Henry Poole Is Here," a bittersweet little dramedy about a lonely, embittered man who refuses to believe in miracles, until the source of them starts to change his own life. While the semi-religious content isn't overwhelming, the story drags out too long with too many lingering shots of Luke Wilson looking sad.
Diagnosed with a rare, fatal disease, Henry Poole (Wilson) moves into a house in his old neighborhood, saying that he "won't be here long." But then his neighbor Esperanza (Adriana Barraza) sees a stain on his wall, and proclaims that it's the face of Christ. She even calls in her local priest (George Lopez), who is optimistically skeptical.
Henry is insistent that miracles "just don't happen in real life," especially since he's now dying. But after a recurring spot of blood keeps appearing on the wall, a child starts talking again and a girl suddenly sees clearly. And Henry starts to form a connection with the pretty divorcee next door (Radha Mitchell), before he gets a surprise of his own.
For a dramedy, "Henry Poole Is Here" isn't very amusing or comedic -- it's pretty earnest in its pro-inspiration message, and has quite a few poignant moments (such as Espereranza's reminiscences about her boyfriend). And through the entire story, we follow Henry's transformation from a lonely, sarcastic, embittered man into a guy who might actually be willing to trust that things can turn out right.
I'll admit it, I don't see any shape in the wall stain. But hey, the miraclecentric storyline thankfully doesn't slather on the religious content too thickly -- rather it's about the openness to believe, and the willingness to live life happily.
As pleasant as this is, the movie does have some flaws. The big one is that it moves verrrrrrryyy slooowwwwllly. About half the movie seems to be long lingering shots of Wilson sunbathing, sleeping, wandering around, running through canals, staring off into space, et cetera. It seems to have been filmed that way to fill up space in the rather shortish storyline.
Wilson is doing his best James Stewart here -- gravel-voiced, quiet, and yet able to conjure up deep-rooted bitterness and sadness (such as when Esperanza takes him on a tour of his old home). Mitchell is quite good as well, and Barraza does a lovely job with a complex, hopeful character who could have easily become a parody of the religious.
"Henry Poole is Here" is a little film with a big heart, but not much meat on its bones. Worth a look, but not quite enough to be memorable