His life in shambles, despondent Henry Poole (Luke Wilson)
buys an abode in the same suburban, tract-house Los Angeles neighborhood where he
somewhat unhappily grew up, amidst the constant din of his parents’ arguments. Quietly withdrawn, Henry just wants to stew in his own juices, and be left alone, but one of his new neighbors, the slightly nosy
but well-meaning Esperanza (Babel‘s Adriana Barraza), happens upon a stain on his newly painted, outdoor stucco wall that she believes is the face of Christ, and thus imbued with special powers. Henry regards this as a bunch of silliness, but more interactions with those around him — including divorcée Dawn (Radha Mitchell), whose eight-year-old daughter, Millie (Morgan Lily) has stopped speaking ever since her parents’ break-up — slowly draw him out of his insular shell.
Henry Poole Is Here is directed by Mark Pellington, a filmmaker with a deep music video catalogue (including Pearl Jam’s groundbreaking “Jeremy” clip) who’s always been a master of atmosphere and mood, most notably with The Mothman Prophecies. Here, though, he rolls the dice on a much more personal story, and succeeds in crafting what is overall a fairly affecting movie about emotional waywardness and the heavy psychological lifting of substantive interpersonal reflection. The target is smaller, but Pellington’s extraordinary skill at marrying artful image and emotional content help Henry Poole
avoid a lot of treacly downward drag, and elevate the emotional punch
of debut screenwriter Albert Torres’ script, which is enough of a blank
canvas to allow one to project onto it their own feelings of
forlornness. The only nagging demerit? There’s a plummy, surface quality to Wilson’s moroseness and sullenness; watching the movie, one thinks about the deeper reservoirs of swallowed sadness that someone like Ryan Gosling could have conveyed with this role, and how those extra pangs of despair would have provided an even greater catharsis.
Housed in a regular plastic Amray case in turn stored in a flat-faced (i.e., no raised text) cardboard slipcover, Henry Poole Is Here allows viewers the option of a full-frame or 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, the latter of which obviously preserves the aspect ratio of its original theatrical exhibition. A Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound track anchors the audio options, and optional Spanish and English SDH subtitles are also included. A feature-length audio commentary track with Pellington and Torres underscores the deeply felt personal pull of the material for each man; they talk about the slight changes and tweaks from inception to actualization, and their feelings both about the collaboration in general and the themes the movie explores. Pellington is an especially intelligent and persuasive advocate for the work — smart and passionate, but not given to pointy-headed intellectual diatribes. He opens up a bit about his heartrending offscreen loss (his wife died suddenly, leaving him a widower and the single father of a three-year-old girl), and how therapeutic the movie was for him.
Further personal testimonials come in a solidly produced, 16-minute making-of featurette, which includes interviews with all of the primary cast and crew. Other special features include theatrical trailers for Henry Poole and three other Anchor Bay DVD releases, as well as two short music videos — one for James Grundler’s “All Roads Lead Home,” and another, directed by Pellington, for MySpace.com theme song contest winner Ron Irizarry. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B- (Movie) B (Disc)