It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Henry Poole Is Here" achieves something that is uncommonly difficult. It is a spiritual movie with the power to emotionally touch believers, agnostics and atheists -- in that descending order, I suspect. It doesn't say that religious beliefs are real. It simply says that belief is real. And it's a warm-hearted love story.
It centers on a man named Henry Poole (Luke Wilson), who has only one problem when he moves into a house. He is dying. Then he acquires another problem. His neighbor, Esperanza Martinez (Adrianna Barrazza), sees the face of Jesus Christ in a stain on his stucco wall. Henry Poole doesn't see the face, and indeed neither do we most of the time, even if we squint. It's a hit-or-miss sort of thing.
Wilson plays Henry as hostile and depressed. Well, he has much to be depressed about. "We hardly ever see this disease in the States," the doctor tells him. "It steamrolls through your system." Patience (Rachel Seiferth), the nearly blind checkout girl at the supermarket, gives him dietary hints when she notices he buys mostly vodka and frozen pizza. Although her glasses are half an inch thick, she's observant: "Why are you sad and angry all the time?"
Henry starts hearing voices in his backyard. There is a rational reason for this. He is being secretly recorded by Millie (Morgan Lily), the 5-year-old who lives next door on the other side from Esperanza. Millie's mother is the lovely Dawn (Radha Mitchell), who apologizes for her daughter, brings cookies, also notices how sad and angry Henry is. He is especially angry with Esperanza, warning her to stay out of his yard and stop praying to his bad stucco job. But she has seen Jesus, and cannot be stopped. She brings in Father Salazar (George Lopez), who explains that the church does not easily declare miracles, but keeps an open mind.