I am becoming more and more convinced that my evaluation of a movie is directly related to the situation in which I watch it. Henry Poole Is Here came at around ten o’clock in the evening, and that undoubtedly contributed to my peculiar distance from the story. But whatever the reason, the evaluation still stands: I never lost myself in this movie.
A lot of it had to do with the soundtrack, strangely enough. Music tells you what to think of a movie, and I think these pop songs were saying, “Ha! This is funny, isn’t it?” And of course, the surest way to kill humor is to advertise it.
As a whole, I felt like this movie was trying to hard to make me feel. A cute 6-year-old who doesn’t speak, a depressed unshaven alcoholic, well-meaning but nosy neighbors: I felt like I was being set up. And when the water stain on the side of Henry Poole’s house began to resemble the face of Christ, I knew the feeling was right.
The image of Christ on the wall proceeds to heal the mute and the blind, and we know it’s only a matter of time before Henry admits the miracle and is healed from his incurable illness.
And then Henry had to go and mess with the story. It’s a happy, Jesus-saves story, Henry! Cry and repent! Open your heart and let the Gentle Knocker in! But Henry just wouldn’t do it. When we think he is finally closest to accepting healing, his life sours again and in a fit of rage he destroys the image. He grabs an axe and smashes a hole in his wall, in full view of the entire worshipful neighborhood.
But then, as he is gasping from the effort and from his anger, he drops the axe and leans on the wall for support. At that point, the entire structurally weakened side of the house collapses on him in a heap of rubble. He wakes up in the hospital later, and he is no longer sick.
And there we had the most truthful part of the whole movie. A man, a rebel against God, in what appears to be his moment of complete triumph, is crushed by the weigh of God’s grace, and is healed. God doesn’t wait for you to let Him through your door; if He’s going to save you, He’ll just bring down the house.