Henry Poole Is Here

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Henry Poole Is Here Movie Poster Image
Faith-themed dramedy has heavy themes, drinking.
  • PG
  • 2008
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A man who is clearly an alcoholic seems hell-bent on performing a slow suicide by indulging in destructive behavior. He's also anti-social. But he goes through a change, fueled in part by his kindly new neighbors, and he opens his heart in the end.

Violence

Hints of a child's troubled childhood; a man on the edge knocks down an entire house by hacking at it with an axe; discussions about a child witnessing horrible fights between her now-divorced parents.

Sex

A kiss between two adults who are falling in love.

Language

"Jerk" and "damn," and one use of "holy s--t."

Consumerism

Labels and signage for Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Super Bueno Market, liquor, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of drinking -- the main character, who is terminally ill and careless about life, drinks vodka and other liquor throughout the day as if it's water.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this flawed-but-interesting dramedy takes on a potentially overwhelming topic -- faith -- and manages to make it approachable. It even stirs a bit of hope. That said, it's so geared up for a fight that it misses its chance to be a truly profound discussion movie. In some ways the content is age-appropriate for tweens -- language, violence, and sexual content are all mild -- but in others it's very mature. The main character is a terminally ill man who drinks like a fish and doesn't seem to care about living -- which may feel too tragic, or even scary, for young viewers. Even the religious themes (neighbors are having visions in the main character's back yard) may overwhelm some kids.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove March 29, 2009

I thought it was good!

I really enjoyed this movie. It was beautiful and tragic at the same time. Some may debate on this topic, because of it's religious aspects, but overall, I... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byperfectionist December 26, 2009

Better than I expected. And I had high expectations.

This movie was amazing. I started to cry at the end. It is a good religious movie. A lot of drinking though.
Teen, 14 years old Written byPoison Ivey December 29, 2009

Cause ya gotta have faith.... lalalala!

I really enjoyed this movie, and even though I dont attend church, I still liked it. I thought it was very touching, heartwarming. I had to hold back the tear... Continue reading

What's the story?

Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) drives a banged-up car with a knocked-out rear windshield he doesn't bother replacing, buys a house he doesn't seem interested in furnishing, and spends his days despondent, eating doughnuts and drinking. In short, he's given up on life. And why shouldn't he? His doctor says he's dying from an unidentified illness, and, as Henry likes to say by way of explanation, he "won't be here very long." But then well-meaning neighbor Esperanza (Adriana Barraza) befriends him, and soon she's claiming to see the face of Christ on Henry's stucco siding. (He thinks it's a stain.) It's not just her, too; others eager for succor and relief have begun making the pilgrimage to Henry's lowly bungalow. Plus, a sad, sweet little girl (Morgan Lily) who lives next door and seems to be fighting her own demons finds her way into his heart -- as does her mother (Radha Mitchell). With friends like these, how can Henry not have faith?

Is it any good?

Though it's hobbled by a murky, sometimes mawkish script, HENRY POOLE IS HERE is still surprisingly interesting, if only because it dares to wear its faith on its sleeve. Irony doesn't live here, and that's very refreshing -- as is the courage to take on such a complicated subject. Wilson is perfect for the job; he's the picture of man defeated, shuffling to an inevitable death. Henry fights any hope that's sent his way -- including the appropriately named Esperanza -- and Wilson makes his struggles palpable. Here is a man who doesn't want to believe but is confronted with many reasons why he might want to.

Still, you have to wonder how much stronger the movie would have been had the filmmakers trimmed down some of the more portentous bits. Nearly every epiphany is foreshadowed, and situations are rigged for maximum tearjerking effect, which, of course, renders them that much less potent. For instance, must grocery girl Patience be saddled with such an obvious name (not to mention Coke-bottle glasses) when she is, quite plainly, supposed to be the character who sees life so clearly? Tonally, too, the movie is all over the place; one minute it's funny, the next it's somber. Even though we already want to believe, director Mark Pellington makes sure to milk the emotion in nearly every scene so that nothing's left to serendipity, leaving little reason for us to take a leap of faith.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Henry feels and acts the way he does in the beginning of the movie. Why does he drink so much? What are the consequences of that behavior? What makes him change -- and why does he resist that change? What messages is the movie sending? Can you think of other movies that deal with faith in a similar manner? What makes this movie different from other Hollywood films?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate