Making the Grades
Henry Poole's (Luke Wilson) relocation to a quiet Los Angeles' suburb isn't just a move to escape the hassles of the inner city. ItÕs a way to escape life altogether. Dumping his belongings into a nondescript little bungalow with a neglected yard, Henry pulls the blinds on the outside world and subsists on a diet of liquor and donuts.
His privacy is intruded upon, however, when his next-door neighbor arrives on the doorstep with a plate of freshly made tamales. Esperanza (Adrianna Barraza) is the local busybody and in essence, the glue that binds this little patch of divergent neighbors together. Yet despite Henry's offish reception of her welcome, she isn't deterred from making regular, unsolicited forays into his backyard.
On one such intrusion, Henry finds the middle-aged Mexican woman staring at a water stain on the side of his house. Convinced that she can see the image of God in the stucco, she needles Henry into letting her bring over her priest (George Lopez) to substantiate her discovery. Longing to be left alone, Henry finally concedes to one visit.
But one visit leads to another and before long, settling into seclusion appears to be impossible for the troubled newcomer who also becomes acquainted with other residents on the street. Dawn (Radha Mitchell), a recently divorced woman, and her mute 6-year-old daughter Millie (Morgan Lily) also live next door. At the grocery store, the cashier (Rachel Seiferth) behind the counter makes attempts as well to draw out the despondent Henry by commenting on his frequent alcohol purchases. For a man who wants to fade into oblivion, Henry Poole (and his stucco) is the new main attraction on the street.
By mainstream standards, this low-budget drama breaks a lot of rules. Though portrayed as a nosy Hispanic neighbor, Esperanza is also full of compassion, forgiveness and sincere concern for those around her. Other characters including Dawn, Molly, the cashier and even Henry's real estate agent (Cheryl Hines) also play a role in pulling the despairing homeowner out of his funk. Though the religious theme may not appeal to everyone, the story goes well beyond the rituals and rites of organized worship and focuses on the basic beliefs that speak to a wide array of viewers. Even Los Angeles, a common synonym for gang violence and opulent excess, gets the every day treatment in this film.
While the script contains an abundance of profane (and religious) uses of terms of Deity and depictions of frequent drinking, even these portrayals change as Henry is forced to deal with the friendly overtures of his neighbors and the influx of the faithful filing into his backyard to see the likeness of Christ on the wall.
Putting personal belief differences aside, Henry Poole Is Here is a subtle reminder that hope in the future and faith to face each day, are options available to those who have eyes to see the goodness of the world around them.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Henry Poole Is Here.
How is religion portrayed in this movie in comparison with many other films? Why is religion or religious beliefs often shown in negative ways?
Does Henry ever fully believe in the image on his wall? Does the miracle still have an affect on him? What does he mean when he says that hope can’t save you?
What impact do the different characters in this film have on Henry? What role do they each play in helping him change?