It's too bad that more movies don't have the courage to explore faith and spirituality in a direct way; studios are usually too worried about appealing to all religions -- and all pocketbooks -- to be very specific about the subject. The other reason is that it's difficult for Hollywood movies to wrap up their neat, bow-tie happy endings with everything resolved, since the idea of faith is based on lack of proof, lack of finality. One of my favorite movies is Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, which uses an unconventional, off-kilter visual scheme to document some exciting, endlessly fascinating arguments: which side is God on and what does He really want with us? The new Henry Poole Is Here bucks the trend with the appearance of a "miracle" in the life of its ordinary, everyday character. Does it raise any interesting, life-changing questions? Sadly, no. The film is too bored and lackadaisical with its subject to change much of anything. It's too uninspired to be inspirational.
Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) is a man with "movie disease." This means that he's going to die, and he'll have absolutely no symptoms until he does. Sometimes "movie disease" comes with a cough, but not this time. Sometimes "movie disease" has a name, like "brain cloud," but not this time. In preparation for the dark day, Henry buys a house in his old neighborhood, loads up on booze, doughnuts and pizza and waits. Meanwhile, his nosy neighbor Esperanza (Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza, from Babel) brings him tamales and pokes around his backyard. (Her late boyfriend used to live in the same house.) She notices that a badly done stucco job has produced a water stain, and that the water stain looks a bit like a familiar guy with a beard. The picture even produces a drop of blood.