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MOVIE REVIEW

A hopeless soul and a tale of reawakening

August 15, 2008|Robert Abele | Special to The Times

The indie drama "Henry Poole Is Here" tells the story of a lonely, hopeless soul (Luke Wilson) who retreats to a newly bought house in the neighborhood where he grew up, only to see his planned solitude intruded upon by neighbors and strangers who believe a water stain on his house is the image of Jesus. Director Mark Pellington's personal trauma of losing his wife and subsequently rediscovering a sense of purpose motivated him to make this achingly sincere faith tale -- leavened somewhat by occasional quirks of humor early on -- but the dearth of honest characterization in Albert Torres' script lends the whole exercise a shallow impatience with the storm before the calm.

Radha Mitchell's hot, sweet single mom next door rarely stands for more than Option Love & Life, just as Adriana Barraza's nosy believer is a devotional foil first (bringing worshipers into Henry's backyard), a character second. Even Henry too often seems like a suffering cipher rather than a real guy with real problems. (He's got a debilitating disease, but we're never told what it is.) Besides, while Wilson does well with the Doubting Henry humor, he's not exactly Max von Sydow when it comes to the crucial crisis-of-faith stuff. Though not strictly a religious tract, "Henry Poole Is Here" is undeniably selling spiritual reawakening. If only its makers believed that aesthetically useful adage: God is in the details.

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"Henry Poole Is Here." MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements and some language. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. At the Landmark, 10850 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 281-8233; AMC Santa Monica 7, 1310 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, (310) 289-4262; and the ArcLight Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street, Hollywood, (323) 464-4226.

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