Going off the happy, light-hearted trailer used to promote Henry Poole is not how you should approach this movie. There is far more drama than comedy here, and the small laughs are simply to lighten the tone against a darker tale of life, death, and a man coming to grips with both.
Don’t let the PG rating fool you into thinking this is something for the entire family. Despite the promise of a quirky comedy about a man who finds his new neighbors infatuated with his outside wall where a face of Jesus is stained, the rest of the movie will fly right over a kids head. Luke Wilson is superb as Henry Poole, dealing with the recent information that he’ll soon die, choosing to move into his old neighborhood and drink until he’s dead.
Wilson’s character is abruptly introduced, and deleted scenes on the disc indicate the filmmakers had an idea to explore the back story with some level of thoroughness. As it stands, the movie moves rapidly into Poole’s current life without offering much else, leaving the audience turned off at his rather harsh demeanor.
What saves the film early on are fine performances from the supporting cast, including Adriana Barraza as his neighbor who discovers the Christ-like stain. She displays a range of emotions convincingly. Later, child actress Morgan Lily does a fantastic job in her role, despite saying few words.
A blossoming romance with Radha Mitchell brings Poole around later in the film with a slightly unbelievable pacing that seems more concerned with Lily than the romance itself. While it becomes crucial to Poole’s story, it’s hard to accept or take seriously especially given how soon it seems to crumble.
That’s one sign of the movie feeling rushed. Those bits of Poole’s life prior to his near-death discovery would have greatly benefited the film as a whole. Still, this is a meaningful story that’s hard to dismiss. All around fine performances and a few thought-provoking moments to think about when it’s over make this worth a watch, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that this could have been more.
Much like the movie itself, this Blu-ray transfer is a tough call. The immediate reaction is one of artificial sharpening and edge enhancement. It’s apparent in the first shot of trees, and happens in every long shot to follow. On the other hand, the phenomenal level of detail in close-ups is top tier material, and a wonderfully calibrated contrast delivers deep blacks and whites set perfectly.
Flesh tones can appear sickly, although this seems to have been a source issue dependent on the scene. No shots appear soft, but that nagging edge enhancement is a real downer, especially given the quality of the rest of the film. Raise the score a point if edge enhancement isn’t a problem for you.
A TrueHD track delivers what it should: crisp, clear, audible dialogue. Minor instances of ambient sounds (birds chirping) are noticeable if brief. Music fills the sound stage, and delivers on the low end. The one piece of action (that term is used loosely) also offers a great LFE bump.
Director Mark Pellington and writer Albert Torres deliver a strong commentary, and obviously love the end product. They continue onto 12 deleted scenes that run over a half hour, discussing the reasons for cutting Poole’s life story. Additional deleted scenes are downloadable via BD-Live, the only film-specific extra on the service. A brief, standard making-of runs close to 16 minutes. A music video and trailers round off the disc.