It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Simon is a garbage man who approaches the world at an angle. Literally. In Hal Hartley's new film “Henry Fool,” Simon is almost always shot with his head tilted down and cocked to one side, with the rims of his glasses positioned right above his eyes, which regard us sideways. He is a man so beaten down by life that he cannot look at anything straight-on. Then Henry arrives to save him.
Simon Grim (James Urbaniak) has just been savagely beaten by a motorcyclist and his girlfriend. Like everyone else in the neighborhood, they treat Simon like a punching bag. Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) is a homeless drifter with a deep, wise voice. He moves into Henry's basement, where the flames from the furnace reinforce his satanic undertones. His mission is to lift Simon to his feet, apparently, and instill a sense of mission in him.
Simon's family includes his mother, Mary (Maria Porter), who is on a lot of pills, and a chain-smoking sister named Fay (Parker Posey), who is an idle slattern quickly attracted to Henry. But Henry makes an unexpected choice and confesses to Simon: “I made love to your mother half an hour ago, and I'm beginning to think it wasn't such a good idea, because it makes Fay jealous.” Simon looks at this statement as he looks at everything, askance.
Henry is working on his “Confessions,” a vast opus. He claims to have connections at a publishing house. He gives Simon a journal with large blank pages and encourages him to write down everything that happens to him. Simon's thoughts flow out effortlessly in iambic pentameter, and when they are posted on the Web, they make him world famous. Meanwhile, nobody much likes Henry's confessions, and it turns out his connection to the publisher is as a janitor, not an editor. There is also the matter of his conviction for child molestation.