Blatant Christian Message in ‘Here’

by Ian T. McFarland on August 15, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Henry Poole is Here
  • IMDB: link

Henry Poole Is Here has a lot of things going for it; but unfortunately, most of the things the film does well are outweighed by a religious message that doesn’t restrict itself.  Those who don’t question Christianity won’t have a problem with it, but anyone with different beliefs will feel ignored.

The film begins with the depressed main character Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) moving into a new neighborhood for reasons not revealed until later in the film.  All we know is that Henry keeps on saying he doesn’t plan on living in the house for very long.  As he gets moved in, his days are lazily comprised of sitting in various corners around his house and yard, as he eats frozen pizza, doughnuts, and pours down vodka like it’s water down the sink.

He seems perfectly content to continue what few days he has at the new home this way; but when his neighbor sees an image of Jesus in a stucco stain on the side of his new home, he’s pulled out of a long cycle of self-pity and forced into the lives of people that come to help and love him.

The film starts off in strong fashion.  Wilson, who is almost always under-utilized in his roles (the only exceptions seem to be in his films with Wes Anderson), puts forth some of his best work as Henry Poole.  Depressed, endearing and charming all in the same effortless breath, you’re rooting for him from scene one.  His acting and the script work together to make a surprisingly solid indie character drama that has you totally into the movie.

But it all goes wrong once the Jesus stain stops being a possible coincidence and becomes a veritable miracle factory, giving a seeing-impaired woman 20/20 vision and a traumatized girl the ability to laugh again.  At this point, the script stops caring about the Henry Poole character and becomes solely dedicated to convincing the audience that God is real.

It stops being a story and starts being a sermon.

I’ll admit that, as an adamant atheist, the film rubbed me the wrong way.  And hey, maybe it was just because of my inability to believe in a God that kept me from appreciating the film; but movies shouldn’t require their audience to agree with their filmmakers to work – a piece of art should be equally valid to any standpoint.  But by presenting these miracles as fact and leaving absurdly little room for separate interpretations; the script is only willing to speak to Christians.

The movie isn’t saying anything, just asserting a religious belief without ever questioning it.  It’s sloppy writing, regardless of what religion or ideology it’s preaching.  It’s like if a Chinese filmmaker made a film about how perfect his government was without ever acknowledging the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

For what it’s worth, serious Christians not looking for an examination of their beliefs will likely really enjoy Henry Poole Is Here.  When the religious overtone is ignored, it’s an genuine character study with humor and heart.  But because the Christian element of the film is taken so much more importantly and empirically than anything else in the film, it ultimately fails to be inspire.

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